Saturday, December 6, 2008

Symphytum officinale

Common Comfrey it is, in the Boraginaceae. I saw this plant from the highway a couple years ago and there wasn't a good place to pull off. By the time I got turned around and back to the area it was pouring rain so I gave up, thinking I'd be back in a few days, but it was forgotten until last May. Strangely, its wetland rating is FACU and at this site it was thriving in a mucky lowland seep.

From a distance it looks like a giant Mertensia with flowers darker and only partially opened. It has leaf tissue decurrent along the stem, making it look strongly winged. It's a native of Europe, escaped from cultivation here and rather attractive. "Officinale" meaning "of the shops," a reference to some historic use in medicine, and hence its prevalence in apothecary shops.

Good call, Scott!

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