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Hounds tongue

Hounds tongue (Cynoglossum officinale)

Herbaceous biennial that can grow to be 1-4’ tall on a single stem that branches above.


Regulated areas of hounds tongue
Hounds tongue is Restricted (Orange counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: common hound's tongue, gypsy flower, dog's tongue
  • Scientific names: Cynoglossum officinale L.f. bicolor

Ecological threat:

  • Invades pastures, roadsides, grasslands, riparian areas and meadows.
  • Alkaloids present in the plant decrease in toxicity as it matures, yet can still be toxic to horses and cattle.

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for hounds tongue was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: Elliptical, alternate leaves are dark green and slightly hairy. In the rosette stage, leaves are 6-8” long; in second year, basal leaves are up to 12” long and reduce in size as they progress up the stem.

Flowers: Arranged in panicles in the upper leaf axils, red-purplish flowers bloom from June-July. They are up to 0.3” wide, have 5 petals and are saucer to funnel-shaped.

Fruits & seeds: Each flower produces 4 nutlets, or small nuts, that are covered in barbs. Nutlets that remain on the plant are viable for 2-3 years.

Roots: Large, woody taproot.


Known county distribution of hounds tongue
Counties in WI where hounds tongue has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have hounds tongue in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Mow second year plants while in flowering stage before seed production. Use sharp shovel to cut 1-2” bellow soil surface.

Chemical: Foliar spray rosettes in spring using 2% solutions of picloram, dicamba, or metsulfuron.


View hounds tongue pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:

  • University of Washington - The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture: Cynoglossum officinale [exit DNR].
  • Cynoglossum officinale [exit DNR]. Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2009. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 8/21/2009 10:15:40 AM].

Links for More Information

Last revised: Friday May 31 2019