The genus name Cynoglossum is from the Greek "cynos", of a dog, and "glossa", tongue and refers to the rough, tongue-shaped leaf. The European Hound's-tongue, a close relative, was believed in ancient times to heal the bite of dogs and to keep dogs from barking. Our native wild comfrey has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes.
There is one extant population and four historical populations.
The extant occurrence has not been known for more than one year.
We do know that there were about a half-dozen collections in the late 1800s to early 1900s, but only one occurrence has been reported since that time. Since this was likely limited to dry upland woods of Staten Island and limited areas of nearby Long Island, it may be safe to assume that these areas no longer have any suitable habitat.
There are invasive species in the area. The historical populations and suitable habitat within the likely range of this plant has likely been subject to intense commercial and residential development.
Invasive species need to be kept away from the site in Dutchess County.
A complete review of herbarium specimens of both Cynoglossum virginianum varieites is needed to verify the identity and determine the true range within the state. Model the species based on the find in Dutchess County.
A plant of upland woods and other shady areas (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Occasional in rich open woods and wooded slopes (Rhoads and Block 2000). Uplands woods (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Open deciduous woods (Fernald 1970).
This plant has only been collected a few times on Staten Island and nearby Long Island. There are a few early reports from central New York, but these may represent cultivated plants or misidentifications. New York is at the north and eastern edge of its range.
This is a more southern plant, ranging from Connecticut, southern New York, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, south to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.
This is a perennial wildflower that grows 1-2 feet high. The leaves at the base of the plant are 4-8 inches long and oval-shaped, with long petioles and a rough surface. They are 2-4 inches wide. There are also a few leaves on the flowering stems which are more lance-shaped and all have heart-shaped bases that clasp the stem. At the top of the leafless portion of the stem are a few branches with a group of small, 1/2" wide, five-petaled, pale lilac to white flowers at the ends. The petal lobes are rounded and overlap somewhat. The fruit consists of four bristly nutlets which become whitish with age.
Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum is about 40-80 cm tall and with only a few leaves on the stems. The stem leaves are sessile while the basal leaves are on large petioles. These basal leaves are 10-20 cm long and 5-11 cm broad. The calyx at the time of flowering is 3.5-4.5 mm long. The corolla is 1-1.2 cm broad, and pale lilac to white. The nutlets are 5.5-7 mm long. This plant is mostly restricted to southeastern New York, although a few disjunct populations have been reported from central New York.
A plant in flower or fruit is needed for proper identification. Since there are two closely related varieties, a specimen should be collected to allow for later verification. A complete habitat description would be helpful as we are trying to learn more about this plants habitat requirements.
Cynoglossum virginianum var. boreale is a more northern variety that is smaller in stature, where at least some of the cauline leaves are distinctly petioled. The calyx at the time of flowering is 2-2.5 mm and the corolla 5-8 mm wide and normally blue. The nutlets are 3.5-5 mm long. Hound's-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is a European species introduced here and now weedy. It is larger and more leafy with reddish purple flowers. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is the old world Comfrey that has escaped cultivation. It has whitish, yellowish, or dull purple, bell like flowers only flaring slightly at the end. The leaves run down and merge gradually with the winged stem.
The blue flowers of this plant are visible from mid-May to early June, and the fruits persist through August. Surveys are probably best conducted late May to early June, but you may be able to locate fruting plants later in the year.
The time of year you would expect to find Southern Wild Comfrey vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.
Southern Wild Comfrey
Andersonglossum virginianum (L.) J.I. Cohen
Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.
Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.
USDA, NRCS. 2004. The plants database, version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov) <http://plants.usda.gov/>. National Plant Data Center <http://npdc.usda.gov/npdc/index.html>, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York
Information for this guide was last updated on: June 22, 2005
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Andersonglossum virginianum. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/wild-comfrey/. Accessed May 29, 2023.