Comfrey, I think, in the gardenI have some comfrey in the garden. I am trying to work out whether it is white comfrey or another comfrey. For white comfrey I have read: "leaves are more rounded than in other comfreys and do not run down the stem."

What is the meaning of the phrase "leaves do not run down the stem?"

  • Send a picture of your comfrey. I've never heard 'run down the stem'...
    – stormy
    Aug 27, 2017 at 20:17
  • 1
    Decurrent is the correct term, as Stormy says - if you look closely at this image of Symphytum officinale tradewindsfruit.com/content/comfrey.htm you will see that the base of the leaf extends partway down the mainstem, so the mainstem looks thicker below the leaf. Compare that with this image of white comfrey wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/C/Comfrey(White)/… which shows the leaf bases arising directly off the main stem, with the main stem being the same thickness below the leaf.Stem leaf 'not running down the stem' is inexact,it could mean lower stems bare
    – Bamboo
    Aug 27, 2017 at 21:12
  • @Bamboo Like in almost a whorled situation or basal? The internodes being very very short? This has been tough to find a decent definition. Learn something every single day.
    – stormy
    Aug 28, 2017 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


Well, thank you for bringing this up; Decurrent is a synonym of 'running down the stem'...I found the same site I think that you read this description. Decurrent or running down the stem I think this has to do with the awls or how the leaves attach to the stem. They use wide flaps to wrap around the stem...I am still working this one out...

Edit: John, I do believe your comfrey is White comfrey. Sorry for not answering your question directly. These plants readily make seed with Russian Comfrey and the progeny will stand taller. I looked up Decurrent and wow, found stack exchange and my answer twice, within the first few inches of the search engine results. I am not that happy with the definition but I think we get the idea.

What are your plans with comfrey? Looks like you are growing this in your lawn?

  • Have added photo. Maybe you or Bamboo can identify. Photo taken 28/8/2017, London. Aug 28, 2017 at 18:09
  • @JohnNygate hard to be sure when its not in flower, this is just the basal leaf clump stage, but have you ever seen this flower? At the moment, it looks more like green alkanet or borage... but when it does flower, check how the leaves are arranged up the stem
    – Bamboo
    Aug 28, 2017 at 23:03
  • So HOW are the leaves 'arranged' Bamboo? I am just seeing a stem ratio to leaf ratio. It is in the borage family. Is comfrey a biennial? Whoa. That would make sense. Duh! Grins!!
    – stormy
    Aug 28, 2017 at 23:09
  • @stormy No, comfrey is perennial, and white comfrey usually flowers early spring, well here in the UK anyway. The leaves in the photo could be comfrey or borage or green alkanet (Pentaglossis) prior to flowering, when they just show a basal clump of leaves, so decurrent (or not) flowering stems are not visible at this stage. The flowers, of course, on Borage and Pentaglossis are nothing like comfrey, and I think this is probably comfrey without flowering stems... Check the links to the pics I gave in my comment to the OP above to see decurrent and non decurrent stems/leaves
    – Bamboo
    Aug 29, 2017 at 10:10
  • I think it is alkanet. Today, 24/9/2017, there are three or more tiny blue flowers with white centres. Sep 24, 2017 at 14:38

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