Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum line drawing Britton, N.L., and A. Brown (1913); downloaded from USDA-Plants Database

Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum line drawing
Britton, N.L., and A. Brown (1913); downloaded from USDA-Plants Database

Class
Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Family
Boraginaceae (Borage Family)
State Protection
Endangered
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
SH
Historical (Possibly extirpated) in New York - Missing from New York; known only from historical records (more than 30 years ago), but still some possibility of rediscovery upon further searching.
Global Conservation Status Rank
G5T5
Secure globally - Both the species as a whole and the subspecies/variety are common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).

Summary

Did you know?

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.

State Ranking Justification

No populations are known within New York today and no populations have been reported since 1914. This plant is very likely extirpated from the state, but we need to research the habitat requirements and likely distribution to determine if any suitable habitat remains, verify all herbarium records, and search past historical populations before the rank is changed to extirpated.

Short-term Trends

The last time this plant was collected in New York was 1914, so a short-term trends assessment is not possible.

Long-term Trends

With no known populations today and only a few populations ever documented within the state, a trends assessment is not very helpful. We do know that there were about a half-dozen collections in the late 1800s to early 1900s, but no populations have 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.

Conservation and Management

Threats

The historical populations and suitable habitat within the likely range of this plant has likely been subject to intense commercial and residential development. No populations are likely today, due to these past threats.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

With no known populations, no managment needs can be suggested.

Research Needs

More research is needed on the exact habitat requirements of this plant to determine if there may still be extant populations within New York. 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.

Habitat

Habitat

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).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-hickory forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on ridgetops, upper slopes, or south- and west-facing slopes. The soils are usually loams or sandy loams. This is a broadly defined forest community with several regional and edaphic variants. The dominant trees include red oak, white oak, and/or black oak. Mixed with the oaks, usually at lower densities, are pignut, shagbark, and/or sweet pignut hickory. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Coastal oak-beech forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest with oaks and American beech codominant that occurs in dry well-drained, loamy sand of morainal coves of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Some occurrences are associated with maritime beech forest. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Limestone woodland* (guide)
    A woodland that occurs on shallow soils over limestone bedrock in non-alvar settings, and usually includes numerous rock outcrops. There are usually several codominant trees, although one species may become dominant in any one stand. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Oak-tulip tree forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on moist, well-drained sites in southeastern New York. The dominant trees include a mixture of five or more of the following: red oak, tulip tree, American beech, black birch, red maple, scarlet oak, black oak, and white oak. * probable association but not confirmed.
  • Post oak-blackjack oak barrens* (guide)
    Open barrens on upper slopes and low ridges characterized by the presence of stunted individuals of post oak, scarlet oak, and blackjack oak. There is a sparse heath and grass ground cover growing in very dry, deep, exposed sand overlying a clay subsoil. * probable association but not confirmed.

Range

New York State Distribution

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.

Global Distribution

This is a more southern plant, ranging from Connecticut, southern New York, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, south to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.

Identification Comments

General Description

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.

Identifying Characteristics

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.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

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.

Similar Species

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.

Best Time to See

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.

  • Vegetative
  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Wild Comfrey vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.

Wild Comfrey Images

Taxonomy

Wild Comfrey
Andersonglossum virginianum (L.) J.I. Cohen

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Lamiales
          • Family Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Hound's-tongue
  • Giant Forget-me-not

Synonyms

  • Cynoglossum virginianum L.
  • Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

Other References

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. 2019. 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

Links

About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 22, 2005

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Andersonglossum virginianum. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/wild-comfrey/. Accessed September 22, 2019.

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