Symphytum L.

Symphytum is a genus of ca. 35-40 species, native to Europe, the Mediterranean area and the Caucasus. Its center of diversity lies in Turkey where 18 species are native (Hacıoğlu & Erik 2013). One species, Symphytum officinale L. is a common native species (Lambinon & Verloove 2012). Several species are cultivated as ornamentals (e.g. Gadella & Perring 2000, Jäger & al. 2008), more rarely for forage. In addition to the species and hybrids treated in this account several others have been recorded in the wild in neighbouring territories. The account for the British Isles (Stace 2010) is particularly helpful and includes several supplementary (notho-) taxa.

1       Plant with creeping rootstock, often stoloniferous, decumbent or procumbent === 2

         Plant not stoloniferous, with vertical rootstock === 3

2       Corolla pale yellow when open (reddish in bud). Flowering stem unbranched, hirsute but not prickly === Symphytum grandiflorum

         Corolla when open blue or pink below and white above, sometimes flushed with red below (reddish in bud). Largest flowering stems branched, prickly === S. xhidcotense

3       Nutlets smooth and shiny. Stem distinctly winged, wings decurrent for more than one internode. Corolla variable in colour but never blue (native) === S. officinale

         Nutlets minutely tuberculate to nearly smooth, dull to slightly shiny. Stem unwinged to shortly winged, wings usually not decurrent for more than one internode. Corolla often blue === 4 

4       Flowering calyx divided less than half way to base, usually 1/3 to ¼ (less obvious in fruiting calyx!). Corolla sky-blue === S. caucasicum

         Flowering calyx divided more than half way to base, usually 2/3 to ¾. Corolla variable, rarely sky-blue === S. xuplandicum (incl. S. asperum, S. xcaeruleum

Selected literature:

Bucknall C.A. (1913) A revision of the genus Symphytum. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 41: 491-556.

Gadella T.W.J. (1984) Notes on Symphytum (Boraginaceae) in North America. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 71: 1061-1067.

Gadella T.W.J. & Kliphuis E. (1978) Cytotaxonomic studies on the genus Symphytum, 8. Chromosome numbers and classification of ten European species. Proc. Kon. Ned. Akad. Wetensch. C. 81: 162-172.

Gadella T.W.J. & Perring F.H. (2000) Symphytum. In: Cullen J. & al. (eds.), The European Garden Flora, vol. 6. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 138-141.

Hacıoğlu B.T. & Erik S. (2013) Phylogeny of Symphytum L. (Boraginaceae) with special emphasis on Turkish species. African Journal of Biotechnology 10(69): 15483-15493. [available online at:]

Hills L.D. (1976) Comfrey. Faber & Faber, London.

Ingram J. (1961) Studies in the cultivated Boraginaceae. 5. Symphytum. Baileya 9: 92-99.

Jäger E.J., Ebel F., Hanelt P. & Müller G. (eds.) (2008) Rothmaler Band 5. Exkursionsflora von Deutschland. Krautige Zier- und Nutzpflanzen. Springer Verlag, Berlin: 880 p.

Kobrlová L. & Hroneš M. (2017) Rod Symphytum L. (kostival) v České republice III. Nepůvodní a pěstované druhy (The genus Symphytum L. (Comfrey) in the Czech Republic III. Introduced and cultivated species). Zprávy české botanické společnosti 52: 225-248.

Slavík B. (2000) Symphytum. In: Slavík B. (ed.), Kvĕtena České Republiky, vol. 6. Academia, Praha: 202-210.

Lambinon J. & Verloove F. (avec coll. Delvosalle L., Toussaint B., Geerinck D., Hoste I., Van Rossum F., Cornier B., Schumacker R., Vanderpoorten A. & Vannerom H.) (2012) Nouvelle Flore de la Belgique, du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, du Nord de la France et des Régions voisines (Ptéridophytes et Spermatophytes). Sixième édition. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Meise: CXXXIX + 1195 p.

Sandbrink J.M., van Brederode J. & Gadella T.W.J. (1990) Phylogenetic relationships in the genus Symphytum L. (Boraginaceae). Proc. Kon. Ned. Akad. Wetensch. C. 93: 295-334.

Sell P. & Murrell G. (2009) Flora of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. 3 Mimosaceae – Lentibulariaceae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: XXVIII + 595 p.

Smejkal M. (1978) Rod Symphytum L. v. Československu. Zprávy československé botanické společnosti 13: 145-161.

Stace C. (2010) New flora of the British Isles, 3th ed.: XXXII + 1232 p. Cambridge University Press.

Stearn W.T. (1985) The Greek species of Symphytum (Boraginaceae). Ann. Mus. Goulandris 7: 175-220.

Tutin T.G. (1956) The genus Symphytum in Britain. Watsonia 3: 280-281.

Van Ooststroom S.J. & Reichgelt Th.J. (1961) Boraginaceae. In: van Ooststroom S.J. & al. (eds.), Flora Neerlandica, vol. 4(1). KNBV, Amsterdam: 92-140.

Wickens G.E. (1969) A revision of Symphytum L. in Turkey and adjacent areas. Notes Roy. Bot. Gard. Edinburgh 29: 157-180.

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith