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Cynoglossum officinale - L.

Common Name Hound's Tongue, Gypsyflower
Family Boraginaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards Houndstongue contains alkaloids that can cause cancer when the plant is consumed in large quantities[238]. The plant is also said to be slightly poisonous[21], there are no reported cases of human poisoning but there are some cases of cattle being poisoned[76]. The plant has a disagreeable odour and taste so is seldom eaten by animals[212]. Contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[222].
Habitats Dry grassy areas and the edges of woods, often near the sea, on sand, gravel, chalk or limestone soils[7, 17, 244].
Range Europe, including Britain, though absent from the extreme north and rare in south, east to Asia.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Cynoglossum officinale Hound

Cynoglossum officinale Hound


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cynoglossum officinale is a BIENNIAL/PERENNIAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses:

Young leaves - raw or cooked[46, 61, 105, 177, 183]. A disagreeable odour and taste[212]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antispasmodic  Astringent  Cancer  Digestive  Emollient  

Hound's tongue has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, though it is rarely used in modern herbalism[7, 268]. The leaves contain allantoin, a highly effective agent that speeds up the healing process in the body[238, K]. Caution should be applied, however, since narcotic effects result from large doses taken internally[7] and the plant is potentially carcinogenic[222] (though it has also been used in the treatment of cancer[218]). The leaves and roots are analgesic, antihaemorrhoidal, antispasmodic, astringent, digestive, emollient and slightly narcotic[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 222]. The plant contains the alkaloids cynoglossine and consolidin, which are used medicinally to relieve pain[212]. They depress the central nervous system and are also potentially carcinogenic[222]. The plant has been used internally in the treatment of coughs and diarrhoea, though it is now mainly used externally as a poultice on piles, wounds, minor injuries, bites and ulcers[222, 238]. The root is harvested at the end of spring of the plants second year[7]. Another report says that it is best harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[238]. The leaves and flowering shoots are harvested as the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use[238]. The plant has a wide antitumour reputation for cancers of various types[218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the roots[7]. It is very effective in the treatment of insomnia[7].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Leaves of C. officinale have been used as a mole repellent in gardens and for protection of stored vegetables and fruits from rodents [1d].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers sandy, gravelly and basic soils[17]. Grows well in an ordinary well-drained soil[1]. Succeeds in full sun or partial shade[238]. The flowers are an absolute magnet for bees[K]. The plant smells of mice[17].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ in early summer. The seed can be sown in spring or autumn, a period of cold stratification improves germination.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Begger's lice; common bur; common houndstongue; dog burr; dog's tongue; glovewort; houndstongue; woolmat. Spanish: lengua de perro comun. French: cynoglosse officinale; herbe d'antal; langue de chien; langue-de-chien. Germany: Echte Hundszunge; Gemeine Hundszunge. Italy: cinoglossa. Netherlands: hondstong. Sweden: hundtunga.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

A weed of temperate regions. It is found in rangelands, pastures, roadsides and waste places, and abandoned croplands. Reported in eastern North America on gravelly, somewhat limey soils, in the UK in sandy areas and in old dune-grassland with dry sandy soils, in the Netherlands on calcareous costal dunes, with high soil nitrogen and in eastern Canada on rocky pastures in limestone regions. In British Columbia, Canada, it occurs on disturbed sites of the interior Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)-bunchgrass biogeoclimatic zones. Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia (Republic of), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, USA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive. A highly invasive weed now present throughout much of North America. Its presence reduces the availability of forage grasses and it is poisonous to livestock if ingested [1d].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Cynoglossum grandePacific Hound's TonguePerennial0.8 7-10  LMHSNM11 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Links / References

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Readers comment

linda   Thu Apr 19 2007

My understanding is that it's not usually eaten by animals when alive, but it becomes much more palatable when dry, yet still poisonous. It can become mixed with hay and has caused problems that way too. Further it is highly invasive therefore a bad idea to plant even if you don't have livestock.

National Invasive Species Information Center some general info plus lots of links to more detailed resources

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