Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beautiful but Invasive Gypsy Flower or Houndstongue

 by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Houndstongue is one of many common names (Wasacth Audobon)
Discovered near the greenhouse, the beautiful maroon flowers intrigued me. I cut a stem and grabbed the wildflower identification book when I got home. It is Cynoglossum officinale or houndstongue as listed in this book.
Houndstongue seed pods clinging to livestock
Oh, no! This lovely plant is invasive, a non-native exotic weed, harmful to livestock. The most annoying characteristic is the seeds which are covered with barbed prickles that have been referred to as nature's Velcro ®.The heavily burred seeds stick to animals and, if eaten in sufficient quantities, the plant can be poisonous.
Dig out the long tap root (Montana State Univ. Ext.)
If you see it, dig it out, especially now before it seeds. It has a long taproot, developed during the first year, which should be dug out. Any seeds on the plant or on the ground should be collected and burned, or you may wrap them and discard in the trash.
Burred seeds - help prevent spread by destroyed these
If the plants are around animals, review any precautions if you elect to spray a weed killer.
Beautiful flowers and prickly seeds
According to a U.S.D.A. research report, hounds tongue reproduces by seed only and was probably introduced to North America as a grain seed contaminant.  It invades grasslands, pastures, forests, and croplands. It is an effective competitor the readily displaces desirable species.


On another note, while Master Gardeners are sometimes scoffed at for using the scientific or Latin names for plants, knowing the correct name for a plant can be important.
In the wildflower book this plant is referred to as houndstongue and a search for photos of the seeds on the Internet revealed that houndstongue is also the common name for several plants in the hawkweed family (Hieracium cynoglossoides).
Houndstongue is a common name for some hawkweeds
Cynoglossum officinale has many common names: houndstongue, beggar's lice, dog's tongue, sheep bur, dog bur, sheep lice, glovewort and woolmat. It is in the borage family (Boraginaceae) and the similarity between the two can easily be seen.
L-Cynoglossum officinale       R- Borago officinalis (Borage)

For more information, check these links:
Montana State University Extension: Houndstongue: Identification, Biology and Integrated Management (Lists information about poisoning)

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