Hound’s Tongue

Hound’s Tongue © KKorbholz

Grand, Pacific, or Western Hound’s Tongue
Cynoglossum grande

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Monocotyledon
      • Monocots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Borage Family (Boraginaceae)
    • Perennial herb
    • Leaves
      • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem) and simple (not divided into leaflets)
      • Broad and up to 8 in. long
    • Flowers
      • Clusters of flowers, pink in bud changing to blue
      • Five fused petals with white appendages forming a central crown
      • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
    • Fruit is a set of 4 nutlets (a small, dry fruit that does not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary), though some may not develop
    • Height can exceed 2 ft.


      • Native to California
        • Grows in woodlands and in shady areas in chaparral
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows from British Columbia south into California
      • Grows at elevations to 5,600 ft.
      Leaves with Flowers © KKorbholz

      Name Derivation

        • Cynoglossum (sy-no-GLOS-sum) – from the Greek kynos, “dog,” and glossa, “tongue”
        • grande (GRAN-dee) – from the Latin for “big” or “showy”
        • Hound’s-tongue – for the shape of the large leaves


          • Flowers change color, perhaps telling pollinators whether a specific flower is worth visiting for pollen and nectar
            • Flowers from more than 70 plant families use color changes to direct pollinators; documented examples include forget-me-nots (Myosotis) and heliotrope (Heliotropium), also in the Borage family (Weiss 1991)
            • Bees can see blue colors, but not reds (Riddle 2016)
            • Immature pink flowers may signal to bees, “Not ready; move on”; the mature blue flowers, “Ready for pollination”; and the fading blue-purple of the aging flowers, “I’m done; don’t bother”
          • Bees perceive ultraviolet colors of the nectar appendages, which appear white to us (Breckling 2008)
          • Nutlets have hooks (cf. velcro) that catch on passing animals to aid in dispersal
          • Some Native people called this plant ‘coyote ears’ (Breckling 2008)
          Fruit (Nutlets) © KKorbholz

          ID Tips

            • May be confused with forget-me-nots (Myosotis species)
              • Hound’s tongue has larger, wider leaves; its flower center is white
              • Non-native forget-me-nots have much smaller, narrower leaves; their flower centers are yellow

            At Edgewood

              • Found in woodlands, especially in dappled shade
              • Flowers February – April

              See General References

              Specific References

                Breckling, B. 2008. Spring Wildflowers of Henry W. Coe State Park and the Inland San Francisco Bay Area. Pine Ridge Association.

                  Riddle, S. 2016, May 20. How Bees See and Why It Matters. Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping.

                    Weiss, M. 21 Nov. 1991. Floral color changes as cues for pollinators. Nature, vol. 354, pp. 227-29.