I Spy in the Sea to Sky!

I Spy in the Sea to Sky!
I Spy in the Sea to Sky!

So, did anybody catch last week’s riddle? If you guessed it, go on and give yourself a high five! Today we’re really testing your invasive species knowledge with a plant that’s a true colonizing expert.

Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a perennial herb that was originally brought to North America as a garden ornamental and an herbal remedy. It was once used to help heal fractures, sprains, and bruises by creating a pulp out of the leaves and the roots, and topically applying it to the injured area. Unfortunately, Common Comfrey behaves invasively once it has escaped from gardens or other non-native sources, outweighing its seemingly positive benefits.

Common Comfrey has distinctly small, light purple, bell-shaped flowers, and broad, hairy leaves. The flowers form in distinctive curled clusters that resemble a scorpion’s tail, and bloom between May and August. Contact with the hairs on each side of its leaves can cause skin irritations in both humans and animals, making it especially tricky to remove.

This fast-growing plant is extremely difficult to control in the Sea to Sky, setting up shop with a deep, sprawling root system that forms an almost turnip-like, black ball. To make matters worse, Common Comfrey can readily spread through separated root fragments and plant division; although, seeds usually need a full wintering cycle to fully germinate.

Preferring rich, moist soils and shady sites, this destructive weed can be found among forest floors, stream banks or shrubby meadows. Once established, Common Comfrey mines nutrients from the soil, hoarding them from native plants in the area and ultimately out-competing them.

If removing Common Comfrey on your own, try to remove as much of the roots as possible and don’t use your bare hands (remember, it causes irritation). Digging it out during dry, hot, summer weather will help to kill off any remaining root fragments and prevent re-growth.

This wicked weed is categorized as “eradicate” under SSISC’s Species Priority List for Whistler and Pemberton, and “contain” for the Squamish region. That means we have to take extra care to prevent it from spreading into new territories, and work diligently to get rid of it once and for all! If you think you’ve spotted Common Comfrey, report it here or email us at info@ssisc.ca.

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