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Saturday 25 April 2015

Difference between young Comfrey and Foxglove

It's a tricky one this, plants are always easier to identify when in flower but when they are young it can be much harder, particularly with plants like this as comfrey can be edible and foxglove certainly is not!


This is comfrey


This is foxglove

See what I mean, they look quite similar don't they? But you really can't get these two mixed up, some people eat comfrey leaves (fried in batter) but they do contain an alkaloid that is toxic to the human liver, however you would need to consume quite a lot for it to have such an effect, foxglove on the other hand is quite poisonous, and a few handfuls of these leaves would find you in hospital very quickly indeed.

this is a comfrey leaf (underside) you can see it's shape and the fact that it is smooth around the edge, look closely at the stem too and you'll find that it's sparse hairs that are almost bristly

these are foxglove leaves and you can see just how hairy the leaf stems are, in fact they feel almost velvety, the leaves are also slightly serrated around the outside, (enlarge the top pictures to see this).
Good luck in your early spring foraging and be careful and sensible with what you pick.


  1. You said much good info, but also at the same time not enough. Leaf you showed looked upside, you said it was underneath? Foxglove leaves you didn't really show hairiness but mostly stalk?

    I don't know, but if your going to show the differences, you might as well go full blown so person walks away with a true knowledge of the differences.

    1. I am not saying it is not underside, I am just saying the photo don't make it look like it was flipped.

    2. In the photo's of fox glove that show mostly stalk which you called leaves, I can almost see the jaggedness of the leaves, so they are toothed? whereas comfrey is smooth? Straight edge?

    3. It's an optical illusion! Focus on the base of the leaf and it's obviously the underside; focus on the tip and it appears to ne the topside!
      Thanks for the info BB!

  2. Hi, yes, it's the underneath of the comfrey leaf that is shown (underside means underneath) it should be easy to tell that the leaf is turned over due to the prominence of the mid rib and veins..And the picture of the foxglove it is the stalk of the leaf (the petiole) that I'm trying to show. And generally speaking, comfrey leaves are smooth and foxglove leaves are slightly toothed..hope this helps.

  3. Are foxglove leaves gelatinous when crushed like comfrey leaves?