Not so Boring Boraginaceae

On my journey through campus just after Friends’ Bridge I happened across several clumps of the striking herb Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in the Boraginaceae family. With around 2000 species in this family the most well known are the lovely Forget-me-not (Myosotis), Borage (Borago officinalis) for which the family was named, and one of the most useful is the Comfreys (Symphytum). Other names for the Comfreys include Slippery Root,  Ass Ear and Knitbone, the latter due to its acceleration properties in wound healing and bone knitting.

The major tell-tale signs of this family include: bristly covered stems and leaves and inflorescence. Alternate leaves, simple and entire. The inflorescence of this family is characteristic due to the lower flowers opening first and being arranged in a coiled fashion, like a scorpion’s tail! Hence the ‘scorpioides’ in the latin name of Water Forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides).

Comfrey flowers have a five-lobed tubular corolla, frequently with scales in the throat. Flowers are actinomorphic and bisexual! Having five stamens attached to the corolla and one style. Flowers come in range of colours from yellow, white, pink, purple or predominantly blue and are mostly pollinated by butterflies. Boraginaceae flowers have one superior ovary forming four nutlets when ripe.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Symphytum_officinale_02.jpg

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1 Response to Not so Boring Boraginaceae

  1. Comfrey leaves are also very good for promoting rapid decomposition in compost heaps and can be steeped in water to make an instant liquid fertilizer.

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