This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Often in May and June, as we wander by the riverbank or brookside, we shall happen upon this very coarse but striking plant, though its flowers may not be of the hue depicted here; its colour varies from pale yellow to red and purple. It is one of those plants whose individuality is so strong that, once seen, it will not be forgotten or confused with any other species. It has a branched rootstock, giving off stalked leaves, and an erect angular stem. The stem-leaves are all but stalkless, their bases running down the stem in such a manner as to give it a winged character. The whole plant is rough with bristles. The genus belongs to the order Boragineae, whose floral structure has been already described (see pages 9 and 26 ante), but the present inflorescence may be noted as a capital example of the "scorpioid cyme," so called from its curve resembling the curl in a scorpion's tail!
There is another British species, the Tuberous Comfrey (S. tuberosum), which is usually found in wet copses, but not south of Bedford. It is not nearly so rough as its congener, although distinctly hairy. Rootstock thickened, radical leaves with longer stalks than in S. officinale. The stem-leaves do not run far down the stem, so that it is not so obviously winged, and the flowers are smaller. Pale yellow. June and July.
The name is derived from the Greek sumphuo, to unite, it having great reputation formerly as a woundwort.
Common Comfrey. Symphytum officinale.