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Mystery plants: Gold Comfrey, Tricolor Beech and Bunchberry

by Janet Carson June 18, 2022 at 6:15 p.m.

Every trip we take we learn new plants.  Some will grow in our climate, and others would struggle, but some might be worth the risk.  Here are three plants we saw in Maine last week.

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Gold Comfrey – Symphytum x uplandicum  ‘Axminster Gold’ – This is a variegated comfrey with outstanding yellow and green foliage.  This variegated cousin of the green foliaged comfrey, Symphytum officianale, only grows about 2 feet tall and wide.  

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Unlike the green comfrey whose flowers open pink and fade to purple, these change color, but it is not as dramatic.

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 This variegated form would struggle in full sun in our hot climate, so give it morning sun and afternoon shade.  It should be a perennial.  The clump can be pruned back by half in mid-summer if it gets tired looking. 

Tricolor European Beech – Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolor

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 is a stunning, deciduous tree which would struggle in the hot, humid weather of Arkansas.  Looking up into the leaves really showcased the combination of pink, cream and dark green leaves.  This tree grows smaller than most European beech trees, topping out at 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide.  

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Common European beech trees grow 60 – 70 feet tall and 45 feet wide.  The copper beech is one of the most stunning mature trees you will ever see.  

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They do best from zones 4 – 7, but don’t like extreme heat or humidity, or above average cold.  The American beech (Fagus grandiflora) will live throughout Arkansas and is a large tree at maturity.


Bunchberry – Cornus canadensis

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is a woody, sub-shrub or deciduous groundcover that rarely exceeds 9 inches in height.  This member of the dogwood family has beautiful white dogwood blooms

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that appear in June after the foliage is on.  It does best in well-drained soils in the shade.  It is hardy from zones 2-6 so would not fare well in central or southern Arkansas.  We saw a lot of it growing throughout Maine. 

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