A biennial plant with high Use Value. Its maroon flowers are usually visited by honeybees and bumblebees. In the past, it was an important cultivated plant, especially dyeing.

Wild, non-cultivar seeds.

SKU: N080

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About the species

Polish name: common sharpener, purple sharpener, dog’s tongue, gypsy herb, mice and rats

Latin Name: Cynoglossum officinale L.

Family: the borage family (the forget-me-not family) Boraginaceae

Status in Poland: native or established in antiquity, common

perennial plant
Flower color:
about 45 cm


A medium-height biennial plant (even annual in countries with a warmer climate than Poland) with grayish hairy leaves and shoots, multicolored flowers and a strong, not very pleasant smell.

The spiral foliaged stems of the houndstongue rise straight, branching at the top, and are strongly tomentosed. The leaves softly ciliated on both sides, vary in shape depending on the location on the stem. The basal and lower ones are long-petioled, elliptical lance-shaped, up to 0.2 m long, without an easily discernible vascular bundle. The upper leaves of C. officinale , on the other hand, will be sessile and elongated, with a very pronounced median vein (vascular bundle).

Single houndstongue flowers are distinguished by the fivefold symmetry of the calyx and corolla. The felt calyx is fused only at the base. The corolla with petals fused together into a short tube. In the center of the tube there are five stamens, one pistil, and warty fornices that protect them from rain and pollen robbers. The stamens are characterized by equal length, most often shorter than the corolla, as well as very short filaments and anthers. Single flowers are clustered in the first-order inflorescences of the scorpioid cyme type, while the whole scorpioid cyme inflorescences form the second-order inflorescence of the panicle type. The houndstongue panicle as a whole is covered by elongated, lanceolate bract leaves.

The fruits in the form of schizocarp, typical for the borage family, cracking into the elliptical splits. The single splits in this houndstongue will be thick in the center and at the edges, which gives them a disc-shaped shape, equipped in numerous spikes both at the top and at the bottom. Apart from the spikes, additional strength of the insertion is provided by a special, elliptical flattening on the bottom of the disc.

Additional information


Houndstongue has no soil requirements. It tolerates dry well.

In nature, it grows mainly in xerothermic ruderal habitats: on roadsides, rubble, landfills, railway areas, on the edge of forests and in thickets, singly or in small groups.

Interesting facts

In the past, it was an important cultivated plant, mainly dyeing, but also medicinal and honey. In the poor regions of the Alps, young, delicate leaves and shoots were eaten during the hungry gap despite their terrible taste and poisonous and carcinogenic properties, as it turned out later. The herb of houndstongue was tried as a medicine for, among others, alopecia, ulcers, aphthae, rheumatism and toothache. In the 19th century in France and England, it was given to men as an anti-aphrodisiac to discourage them from using of prostitutes services and thus protect them from the veneral diseases. According to modern doctors, such therapy only harmed patients.

The seeds stick to the pelage, and human clothes, and are spread through them (ectozoochory).

The houndstongue, like its distant relatives: Anchusa officinalis, and Alcanna tinctoria, contains a natural but strong red dye: anchusin (alkannin).

Use Value

A wonderful honey plant as befits a representative of the borage family provides 100-200 kg of honey per hectare of cultivation. Honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees love its pollen. Although so eagerly visited by insects, it can also form seeds by self-pollination.

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