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Plant id; is it a comfrey?  RSS feed

 
Galadriel Freden
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This plant was given to me by my MIL, but I have also seen it growing wild/as a weed. She described it as comfrey, but from looking at other photos online I'm unsure. It has a thick black taproot, very long. The leaves are fuzzy and slightly rough. The flowers are blue and look like forget me not flowers (not bell shaped at all). Does anyone know if this is a type of comfrey, or is it something else?

Thanks!
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comfrey?
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flower close up
 
Cj Sloane
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I'm guessing it's comfrey's relative, borage.
 
David Livingston
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I am not so sure about that , I would have expected the flowers to have a different patten and to be a darker blue it looks more like a type of Forgetmenot .

http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/image_uploads/flowers/Forget-me-not-Field-2.jpg

David
 
Galadriel Freden
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I think it is not borage, unless it is a different strain than the one I already grow. I'm also not sure about wild forget me not, either. I'm under the impression forget me not is spring flowering, and this has been in flower all summer long.
 
Cj Sloane
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Do the leaves smell like cucumber?
 
Galadriel Freden
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Cj Verde wrote:Do the leaves smell like cucumber?

They do a little bit! Does borage have a really big taproot? The couple I have were sown in situ so I've never seen the roots.
 
David Livingston
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Well this is Borage http://jeantosti.com/Fleurs/bourrache2.jpg
Forgetmenot flowers from April to September http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=99&wildflower=Forget-me-not,%20Field

David
 
Cj Sloane
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OK, Boraginaceae is the wiki page to look at. I thought it must be in the same family as comfrey & borage if it smells like cucumber so I checked out the genus, then family and guess what is in the Boraginaceae family? Forget-me-not! So either way you're on the right track.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Cj Verde wrote:OK, Boraginaceae is the wiki page to look at. I thought it must be in the same family as comfrey & borage if it smells like cucumber so I checked out the genus, then family and guess what is in the Boraginaceae family? Forget-me-not! So either way you're on the right track.


Looking through the wikipedia links, and searching through likely looking ones (they all look very similar!) I'm pretty sure it's Pentaglottis sempervirens, Green Alkanet. Thanks to both of you for pointing me in the right direction!
 
Akiva Silver
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I'm pretty sure that is Brunnera.
 
Cj Sloane
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Akiva Silver wrote:I'm pretty sure that is Brunnera.


Still in that Boraginaceae family!

And hey, Akiva, nice interview with Diego!
 
David Croucher
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Galadriel, our region seems in the last few decades to be seeing this plant spreading as a pernicious weed - like dandelion or bindweed, but even harder to get rid of! It IS a relative of comfrey and borage. Common names Evergreen Bugloss and Green Alkanet, it's Pentaglottis sempervirens. It's a perennial with vigorous growth and a very deep taproot, and is immense at full growth, and very freely seeds - as you'll find if you let it. It responds to the usual methods of eradication, but needs many treatments, and its seeds seem to live for years in the soil.

Green Alkanet seems to have been introduced a long while ago by monks, because its roots yield a fine deep red dye. It's always been around, then, but not in large amounts until recently. If you'd like it as a ground cover plant or a fine-looking standalone specimen, do remember to pull stems (wearing gloves) before it sets seed. Otherwise, it will take you over! Ripe seeds apart, it's a good composting and mulching plant, like borage, and its flowers are delightful!

Enjoy its looks, but don't let it take over. And to get rid of it needs a lot of work.
 
Galadriel Freden
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David Croucher wrote:Galadriel, our region seems in the last few decades to be seeing this plant spreading as a pernicious weed - like dandelion or bindweed, but even harder to get rid of! It IS a relative of comfrey and borage. Common names Evergreen Bugloss and Green Alkanet, it's Pentaglottis sempervirens. It's a perennial with vigorous growth and a very deep taproot, and is immense at full growth, and very freely seeds - as you'll find if you let it. It responds to the usual methods of eradication, but needs many treatments, and its seeds seem to live for years in the soil.

Green Alkanet seems to have been introduced a long while ago by monks, because its roots yield a fine deep red dye. It's always been around, then, but not in large amounts until recently. If you'd like it as a ground cover plant or a fine-looking standalone specimen, do remember to pull stems (wearing gloves) before it sets seed. Otherwise, it will take you over! Ripe seeds apart, it's a good composting and mulching plant, like borage, and its flowers are delightful!

Enjoy its looks, but don't let it take over. And to get rid of it needs a lot of work.


Thanks David, and welcome to permies I still have only the two plants which haven't spread (yet), though they are enjoyed by my chickens. As they are so similar to comfrey (and closely related, as I discovered), I have been treating them as a mulch/insectory plant like comfrey near two of my fruit trees--that is, when the chickens let them grow! If/when they spread a little more, I'll keep them in check as you suggest, by chopping them down before seeding.
 
David Croucher
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Thanks for the welcome.

I spent 6 years trying to discover what this was, until finally a US website gave a clue and I could discover it. Now there's a fair amount of online identification - if you already have a name! The surprising thing is the similarity of green alkanet's flowers to the related but oh-so-different forget-me-not flowers, which is at least an annual.

Where we are at the north end of Sherwood Forest, it's been spreading steadily for the last decade, where 20 years ago it was unknown. I've also spotted it in the old Bishop's Palace in Southwell, a fair way south - but, of course, it may have been a treasured plant there. In fact, we have a dozen old monasteries around here - so it might be that - with climate change - its time has returned.

Now I must get back into our three gardens, all of which have some prime alkanet plants after the mild winter!
 
Galadriel Freden
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My MIL has it in her London garden, but I have seen it here in our village at our local library. I am fairly close to you, near Doncaster; it's interesting to learn it was a useful monastery plant, and it makes me wonder if there was a small monastery hereabouts--or maybe there was a local dyer. It makes me think of anthropology and local history in an entirely different way! I wonder if there are other indicator plants of human activity here in Britain? Like how when you have a long straight road you can be fairly sure it was Roman.
 
David Croucher
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There are maps of where all the monasteries are/were. There are a lot of indicator plants, but it's too specialized; I don't know a lot about it. Straight roads? Three ages: Roman, of course; turnpikes of mostly the 18th century; a few early motorways (until they found that drivers tend to go to sleep on straight bits!)
 
Fiona Sturgess
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This is Alkanet, otherwise known as Anchusa.  It is a relative of Comfrey.  It spreads widely and can become a nuisance.
 
Galadriel Freden
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Fiona Sturgess wrote:This is Alkanet, otherwise known as Anchusa.  It is a relative of Comfrey.  It spreads widely and can become a nuisance.


Hi Fiona, welcome to permies!

After a few years, my two alkanet plants have become four!  Luckily it's still tasty to chickens, but I'll be keeping an eye on it, to chop and drop once it flowers.  Since learning it's a dye plant, I've been curious to see how it dyes up, but haven't made any attempts yet.
 
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