Eastern Forest Threat Center - Houndstongue

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Houndstongue flowers and fruits

Houndstongue flowers and fruits

Mary Ellen Harte, Bugwood.org

Cynoglossum officinale

Houndstongue is a native of Europe and seems to have been introduced into North America as a contaminant in agricultural seed.

Keywords: Boraginaceae, biennial, short-lived perennial, forb, rough velvety leaves, adhesive nutlets, disturbed areas, toxic; Common names: gypsyflower

Distribution Map Distribution Source Image

Threat Description

Houndstongue is a biennial or short-lived perennial forb. It forms a rosette during its first year of growth and produces a stem, flowers, and seeds during its second year, then dies. The rosette is comprised of large, velvety leaves that are rough to the touch (resembling a hound’s tongue) and often appear dusty. Reddish-purple flowers are produced on a single stout, heavy stem that can reach 4 ft. in height. Seeds are distinctive, prickly, adhesive nutlets that stick to clothing and animals, spreading great distances. Nutlets are commonly referred to as “beggar’s lice.” Houndstongue reproduces solely from seed. Mature plants can produce up to 2,000 seeds that remain viable on the parent plant for two to three years. Buried seeds rarely survive more than one year. Houndstongue is common on gravelly, alkaline soils. It is a poor competitor with native plants and requires disturbed or bare areas to establish. It grows on rangeland, pastures, abandoned cropland, roadsides, and waste areas. Houndstongue contains alkaloids that are toxic to grazing animals, especially cattle and horses.