Common Comfrey agg. - Symphytum officinale agg.

    Description

    Stout plant to 1.2 metres. Stems erect, widely winged. Leaves large and coarse, untoothed, strongly decurrent (the base running on to the stem), only the lowest stalked. Flowers, pink, whitish or purple-violet 12 to 18 mm bell shaped with reflexed lobes, borne in forked clusters. Because Comfrey hybridizes freely and is so difficult to identify with certainty we have decided to treat Common Comfrey as an aggregate. There are few national experts who have the necessary expertise to arrive at a precise identification with any degree of certainty.

    Similar Species

    Many other species, hybrids and varieties of comfrey with blue, pink or pale flowers - especially Russian Comfrey and Hidcote Comfrey, for which it is often recorded in error.

    Identification difficulty
    ID guidance

    The true species has strongly decurrent leaves - i.e wings from each leaf extend down the stem beyond the leaf below (more than 1 internode).  Hybrids often have decurrent leaves, but moderately or weakly so.   The true species also has smooth, shining nutlets.  Flower colour is variable, but rarely white or blue; cream, purplish or striped light and dark purple.

    Recording advice

    This can't be verified from the flowers alone; a photograph of the whole plant, including leaves and stems.

    Habitat

    Damp grassland, roadside verges and banks of streams.

    When to see it

    May to July.

    Life History

    Perennial.

    UK Status

    Found throughout Britain but scarcer in the North.

    VC55 Status

    Fairly frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland. In the 1979 Flora survey of Leicestershire it was found in 80 of the 617 tetrads.

    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    UK Map