"What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Some plants look alike, often because they are related. For instance: young squash plants will look like cucumber plants; young tomato and tomatillo plants are similar; dandelion and chicory have a similar leaf pattern in the spring. However, as the plants mature, their growth patterns become more identifiable and when they flower or produce fruit, their similarities fade. If you are harvesting young dandelion leaves in the spring and include chicory leaves, no problem, they are both edible and the young leaves have a similar taste and texture. However, as the plants mature, chicory sends out a stiff singular stem that eventually sports pretty, blue flowers. No confusion with a dandelion there.
When we first moved here from south central Idaho, I noticed a multitude of tall forbs with nodding blue and pink bell-shaped blossoms in small clusters. We had mountain bluebells? One of my favorite wildflowers. Then when fall arrived, we couldn’t figure out where these large flat Velcro acting seeds were coming from. We would sit on the deck picking them off our socks, sleeves, gloves and pants. It took us a few seasons to realize, houndstongue was not like mountain bluebells. We have recently found mountain bluebells on a hike through the woods along a stream. Just being in their presence, and taking a photo or two, warmed my heart. I had long since dug the houndstongue out of our property, and we continue to do so.
Houndstongue, Cynoglossum officinale, has sticky egg-shaped seeds that can spread like wildfire. It is represented in Idaho’s Noxious Weeds book. They list it as toxic to livestock. It is a biennial, sometimes a perennial, so you have a whole year to dig it out before it blooms and goes to seed.
So how does comfrey (Symphytum officinale), compare with houndstongue? Besides both having clusters of purple to pink to blue, small drooping bell-shaped flowers, they also both have large green, hairy lance shaped leaves, grow up to three feet tall along streams or other moist places. Both have larger leaves on the bottom, growing smaller at the top.
Comfrey is considered by many to be a beneficial medicinal plant, known as knitbone, it has been used in poultices for thousands of years to heal burns, sprains and swelling. However, you will want to plant it where it can have its own space away from your garden beds. Many plant it in a container or under the fruit trees. Somewhat drought tolerant, it is easy to grow in the sun or part shade and hardy to both heat and cold. If you don’t want it to spread, cut off the flower stems when they fade and tuck them between layers of your compost. Comfrey is considered a good compost activator and your plants will probably reward you by blooming again.
Before using, be sure it doesn’t have any interactions with your prescription drugs.