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Eastern Shore Food Lab

Symphytum officinale - Comfrey

A versatile addition to any fruit tree guild, we use comfrey as a chop-and-drop living mulch, groundcover around fruit trees, and compost activator. 

Common Name: Comfrey
Scientific Name: Symphytum officinale
Plant Family: Boraginaceae
Etymology: Comfrey– Gr. confervere, “to heal”; Symphytum, Gr. derivative Symphyto, “to unite”; officinalis, L. “of the dispensary.” 

Uses

  • Compost activator
  • Chicken fodder
  • Dynamic accumulator (K, P, Ca, Cu, Fe, Mg)
  • Groundcover
  • Honeybee forage
  • Living mulch
  • Medicinal
  • Nectary
  • Shelter plant for beneficial lacewings, spiders, parasitoid wasps

Medicinal Properties

Comfrey has a long history of medical uses, most notably for healing wounds and encouraging rapid cell growth.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Astringent
  • Demulcent
  • Expectorant
  • Vulnerary 

Forest Garden Designing

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Plant Leaf Type: Deciduous
  • Layer Use: Groundcover, herbaceous
  • Flowering: April through June
  • Leaf Shape: Large, hairy, lance-shaped
  • Height: 3-5′
  • Width: 3-5′

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Light: Full-part sun
  • Shade: Tolerates light shade
  • Moisture: Prefers moist soil
  • pH: prefers slightly acid to neutral soil (6 – 7)

Propagation

  • Division

Maintenance

For use as a green manure or living mulch, chop the aboveground growth to the ground once it flowers. The leaves will decompose releasing nutrients to the soil surface mined from its deep roots. Repeat as needed throughout the season.

The Washington College campus garden propagates comfrey for use in its growing compost program.The Washington College campus garden propagates comfrey for use in its growing compost program.