Doing some quick research on which comfrey varieties are good for what purposes, but finding some conflicting information. Need some clarification.
From what I've read,
Bocking 4 = Good animal fodder, more for medicinal use, low in PAs, tends to run a little more wild
Bocking 14 = Higher production, the best for compost use, slightly higher in PAs thus not as recommended for medicinal use, stays put more than Bocking 4
Symphytum officinale = approximately 1/3 production of either Bocking varieties, seeds freely, can naturalize in ideal circumstances, might have lower PAs and better for medicinal uses
Me = confused, because different websites keep switching Bocking 4 and 14 like they're interchangeable.
Unfortunately, I believe many of the claims and data are dependent on which variety each vendor sells.
From what I have gathered, any of the Bocking varieties will outproduce the S. officinale in terms of plant mass.
There are reports that Bocking 14 will be shunned by various animals (but that could also be based on what else is available to eat).
For a strictly medicinal use, the true comfrey S. officinal seems to be more in favor.
For fodder, the B-4 seems most popular.
For compost/tea production, the B-14 seems the most productive.
For 'ease of use', true comfrey will reseed itself...requires no root division. It will spread itself with no intervention.
That could be a problem if you don't want to spend time controlling it, and it is heavily planted.
I believe, that mixed in with hundreds of other species, it should not get out of hand.
I guess each of us needs to determine which species best fits our own requirements for end use, as well as upkeep/propagation.
There is no one "best", as it depends on your overall intended use of the final product, and how you want to spend your time.
I know this is sort of a late reply....but if you haven't read the book: "Comfrey, Fodder, Food & Remedy" by Lawrence D. Hills, do so now...because in the book, he covers all of the different varieties of Comfrey from Bocking 1 to 21 and how they all came to be. Good book.
Steve Garza wrote:I know this is sort of a late reply....but if you haven't read the book: "Comfrey, Fodder, Food & Remedy" by Lawrence D. Hills, do so now...because in the book, he covers all of the different varieties of Comfrey from Bocking 1 to 21 and how they all came to be. Good book.
Let me add to that the book by the same author "Comfrey - Past, Present and Future".
As a side question....technically aren't all the varieties Symphytum officinale? When we specify a bocking variety vs. Symphytum officinale is really just to distinguish a particular cultivar against the wild natural variety?
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
The Bocking varieties are hybrids. They do not produce viable seed.
Since the Bocking varieties produce no viable seed, they must be propagated by cuttings/division.
If you wish to propagate by seed, you need to get seeds from Symphytum o.
Ben Bishop wrote:As a side question....technically aren't all the varieties Symphytum officinale? When we specify a bocking variety vs. Symphytum officinale is really just to distinguish a particular cultivar against the wild natural variety?
In addition to what John said let me add, the term "Bocking" refers to a village subdistrict, in Braintree district, Essex in England. The term was applied to comfrey by Lawrence D. Hills who chose it during his research simply because it was the location of his research. He firgured that way Bocking would be universal and used in any language. Where had he said say variety 4, in Spain it would be variedad 4 and in say Italy it would be varietà 4, etc. Where as Bocking would be called Bocking by everyone.
So when they did all the trials noted in Hills' books they were just different pairings of different hybrid and essentially Bocking 4 really kind of does mean Variety 4, I think knowing that makes things in the comfrey world a bit more clear.
The next thing people ask than is what happened to Bocking 1-3 and 4-13 and are there any higher than 14. The basic answer is that 4 and 14 ended up being the two that grew best and worked best as fodder and fertility yields.
OK ... so I have Comfrey from two different sources. At least one said she'd grown it from seed. How do I know which variety(s) I have? If they came from seed, does that mean neither is a Bocking 4 or 14 either one? They were given to me as cuttings, however. But I assume that doesn't tell me anything.
If your comfrey was grown from seed it would not be any named variety including the Bocking selections. It is most likely the straight species known as "common comfrey" (Symphytum officinale).
If one of your comfreys was not originally grown from seed then you could with very careful evaluation and observation determine if it is also common comfrey (which will occasionally produce a small number of seeds) or one of the hybrid "Russian" comfreys which should never produce seeds under normal conditions.
I say the common comfrey only occasionally produces seeds because it mostly attracts bumble bees which actually pierce the side of the flower to access the nectar and in doing so are very inefficient as pollinators. That means that you won't always find seeds on your common comfrey so don't assume not finding seeds right away means it's a Russian hybrid. Over the years I've found that the common type does not spread aggressively by seed and in my experience is still most often multiplied (where I am) when soil disturbance fragments the roots.
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