• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Comfrey Varieties

 
Andy Sprinkle
Posts: 46
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Zone 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am have been unsuccessful in trying to find a local source for comfrey and thanks to Jeanine on permies forum I got the link to horizon herbs (http://www.horizonherbs.com/). They offer two different varieties, Bocking 14 Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis). The following paragraph from horizon herbs tells the differences between the two:

"What's the difference between this plant and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)? The Bocking 14 cultivar of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is a sterile hybrid that will not self-seed and is extremely robust and vigorous. The true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) is a bit less vigorous of a grower, has more elongated leaves and (I think) prettier flowers, and does indeed make seed. Although both types of comfrey (Russian and True) are useful for making medicine and making compost, in an ideal world one would use the bocking cultivar for producing large amounts of biomass for permaculture gardens, composting, and animal feed, and one would use the true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) for medicinal purposes. Again, both types (and other species as well) are used interchangeably in agriculture and in medicine."

My questions for people who might have experience with one or both are:

1) for the sterile hybrid Russian how would I propogate/multiply this?

2) for the true...how easily does it reseed/spread?

3) Is one variety hardier/more drought tolerant than the other?

Any other considerations when deciding which variety to purchase? Intended purpose would be to use as dynamic accumulator and for mulch/compost tea...maybe eventually as herb/medicine.

Thanks!

 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
1- you propagate it by root division.
2- it depends on your climate, it won't self seed much in a semi desert environment. It can be annoying when dealing with small scale projects where space is critical like in a cool moist summer zone. Large scale it's not so much of a problem.
3- they are both very hardy when established and planted in the proper location.

I grow both
 
Andy Sprinkle
Posts: 46
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Zone 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Jordan...I think I'll try both also. They will ship anytime but if I root cuttings should I wait until spring? This week and next is supposed to be in 100's and 90's...not good time to be planting. If I wait until September would they have enough time to get established before winter...first frost is usually in mid to late October?
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hot sun can be a killer for transplants. If you decide to plant them in hot weather, get some shade cloth (or an old window screen) to keep the sun directly off of them.
Set it on blocks, bricks, or whatever to allow a good airflow underneath.

If you wait until autumn, the more time you allow before the first frost is better. Before the first frost make certain to lay down a good layer of mulch to protect the fresh seedlings and their roots.

Both the true, and hybrid versions are essentially weeds. Most weeds can survive many harsh conditions.
It might slow them down, but they'll probably survive with a little help.

 
Andy Sprinkle
Posts: 46
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Zone 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks John...will 30-40 days and heavy mulch be sufficient to overwinter? Can I completely cover with the mulch? How deep can I mulch and not kill it? It will be leaf mulch as that is what will be plentiful in the fall.
 
Carol Lex
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello,

I too wonder about the varieties of comfrey and have been warned not to plant the seeding variety ever.

There are apparently two sterile varieties available for sale that I know are recommended:

bocking #14 at Horizon Herbs in Oregon

bocking #4 at Coe's Comfrey in NC.

I would like to know where to find information regarding any differences between the two sterile bocking varieties.

I also wonder if the size or age of the roots/cuttings sold vary in any great significance.

I aslo would love to find the link where Dr Duke is said to have compared a bottle of beer's alkaloid content to comfrey tea's in terms of knowing just how safe comfrey leaf tea really is to drink.

I try to get my mother to drink the tea; but the "general" warnings have frightened her.
Yes, this seems a worn out debate; but I believe comfrey leaf tea helps me.
Thanks for such a nice website and contributions from helpful posters.

Purplishflower
 
Carol Lex
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I found a bunch of good information about both of the sterile Russian Bocking#14 and #4 Comfrey plants from the gentleman at Coes Comfrey website.

I posted the general differences noted on another thread here about #4 being more deeply rooted thus more drought tolerant and a higher protein content than #14. The allantoin content of #14 is slightly higher than that of #4.

Good food for chickens,rabbits, goats, worms, and soil.

Happy Growing!

Carol
 
Allan Babb
Posts: 63
Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Andy Sprinkle wrote:
2) for the true...how easily does it reseed/spread?


Out of 35 seeds, I managed to get 2 plants only during my spring propagation. While I'm not a master at starting from seed, most of my seed does germinate. I'll also toss in that my 2 chickens love comfrey leaves and even eat some of the stalks too.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Carol you want to do some research on the bocking trials in Europe. This is where bocking 14,4, and other comfrey varieties were bred. You should be able to find the who where what when type stuff.
 
Rick Freeman
Posts: 103
Location: NW Montana, Hardiness Zone 4b
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Note also that the same website writes that "Compared to the Bocking 14 cultivar (Symphytum x uplandicum), this "true comfrey" (Symphytum officinalis) has [...] less concentration of potentially toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Here's a link to the wikipedia entry on pyrrolizidine alkaloids, but the basic message is that it's hard on livers. If you plan to feed the S. uplandicus to chickens because of its high protein content, maybe look further into the topic. (?)

Andy Sprinkle wrote:
"What's the difference between this plant and true comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)? "
 
Ollie Puddlemaker
Posts: 148
Location: Houston, Tesas
5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I have been taught that the main differences between the Bocking Comfrey's #4 and #14 were that the Bocking #4 is self-seeding, very deep-rooted, it will thrive in drought where most other plants are helpless, higher protein, where as the Bocking #14 strain of Comfrey is shallow-rooted and subject to drought and it is disliked by rabbits and chickens — as being too bitter this information is according to Lawrence D. Hills, the world’s foremost expert on Comfrey.
 
maggie o keeffe
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi there, been following this forum with interest, as I am about to start my final year science degree project on comfrey, comparing the pyrrolizidine alkaloids in officinale with those in russian comfrey, expecting russian comfrey to have higher levels. Is ALL russian comfrey sterile, and cultivated by root division only, or just the BOCKING cultivars.
can russian comfrey still cross breed with officinale? if the two plants are in the same garden or field, will the officinale continue to seed true to type, and the russian comfrey not breed as it is sterile?
any answers would be much appreciated. thank you
maggie
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Russian comfrey is not sterile. It is difficult to get it pollinated, but it does happen in nature.
The Bocking varieties are known to produce only sterile seeds.

Lawrence D. Hill's great book on Russian Comfrey is a free download here.

This was written before he began the Bockings work.
If you are writing a scientific paper on Russian Comfrey, this book is a must read.

 
Adam Moore
Posts: 121
Location: Mansfield, Ohio Zone 5b percip 44"
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I only have the true comfrey. It is definetly not good for mulching in areas where you dont want it to grow. The reason being is it is to hard to cut off the leaves without getting some seeds with it. What I like about it though is that mine flowers from early spring to late fall. I even had flowers up til a couple weeks ago and it was one of the first of my plants that flowered in the spring. The bumble bees love it. It is one tough plant. I gave some starts to a friend but her chickens loved it so much they killed off all the comfrey. If I had chickens then the true comfrey would be my choice to help supplement their feed. That way if some of the plants were killed off, by not easing off the chicken pressure, then there would be so many seeds in the soil it would just come back. I would like to try the other kinds of comfrey though.
 
Johnny Niamert
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a few years experience with #14 growing for gardening/compost/mulching needs around my old house. It also flowers season long, as long as it gets big enough to, Adam. A really nice, deep purple flower. I usually cut most of mine for use right when it starts to flower, but I always left one out front to do it's thing all year. The biomass is awesome for gardening needs. I especially love the syrup made from fresh leaf. I've fed #14 to calves and they loved it. I planted #4 root starts this spring. I ordered from Coe's comfrey and split all the roots he sent me in half, even thirds. They all came up, except for 2 IRRC. I'm hoping to get some chickens going soon, goats and maybe a cow in the future.
I've been reluctant to plant the true, because of the invasiveness factor.
 
Eric Tilton
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've also been interested in finding accurate info as to which was preferable to which farm stock. I read in different seed catalogues claim stating " 4 " is used for animal feed and "14"is used for animal feed....ok..... Anybody have firsthand knowledge of which they feed to their critters and how well they take to it ?
Each may have particulars that make them preferable to their intended purposes....

I have some of each but would like to know for sure..
 
Nancy Nantahala
Posts: 7
Location: North Carolina
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I spent many, many hours researching the difference between Russian Comfrey #4 and #14. Please check this out:
http://www.nantahala-farm.com/comfrey-root-s.shtml

I have 17 pages about comfrey. I put a lot into this research because there is so much confusion about it. Also information about comfrey: health and growing.
 
Ruth Lawrence
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi I am looking for true Comfrey not Russian varieties. This article gives an interesting take on the pros and cons of ingestion. More useful info in the comments so read those too. What I noticed in the photo showing the true and Russian varieties side by side is the leaf shape and colors are very different. The pics in Horizon herb show Comfrey that's more like Russian type. If anyone reading this has grown true Comfrey can you confirm the leaves match the plant on the left? 

Thanks

http://monicawilde.com/is-comfrey-edible/
 
Do not set lab on fire. Or this tiny ad:
Got Permaculture games? Yes! 66 cards, infinite possibilities::
www.FoodForestCardGame
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic