Although all comfrey has its benefits as pollinator-friendly, fertiliser-making, hardy and easy-to-grow plants, common (or wild) comfrey and most other strains have some less than desirable qualities. Fortunately the comfrey strain Bocking 14 overcomes most of the issues presented by common comfrey.
The most problematic characteristic of common comfrey for the domestic gardener or smallholder is how readily it spreads, through self-seeding, layering, and root spread. Once established, common comfrey is very hard to eradicate without the use of unpleasant chemicals, so the best strategy is to avoid the problem from the start.
Enter Bocking 14 – a cultivar or strain of comfrey that is sterile and won’t spread from seed, and is far less likely to grow from cuttings used for purposes such as feeding potato trenches.
The Bocking comfrey research station
Bocking 14 gets its name from the Bocking comfrey research station, founded by Lawrence D Hills in 1954 at Bocking in Essex. On this ¾ acre plot Hills proceded to plant and monitor dozens of strains of comfrey. These strains of comfrey came from all over the United Kingdom, and included some Hills had gathered from Henry Doubleday‘s former planting ground at Coggeshall in Essex.
Within two years Lawrence D Hills had identified 30 distinct varieities under the commons species name Symphytum peregrinum, and set about recording their characteristics and assigning them cultivar names.
The first distinct cultivar he named ‘Bocking No. 1’, adopting a naming convention similar to that used by the East Malling Research Station for fruit tree stocks.
Comfrey Bocking 14
Over a period of 8 years Hills identified, tested, and recorded 21 Bocking cultivars, cataloguing their botanical characteristics, yields, and habits. Of these, Bocking 14 proved to be the best all-round option for many applications, and is now the most well-known.
When you consider the performance of the cultivar in the field tests, it becomes clear why it is so desirable:
- It produced the second highest yield across Hills’ 5-year yield trials, averaging 33 tons per acre
- Mineral analysis showed it to have the highest potash at 7.09%
- It is high in allantoin, the compound which grants comfrey it status in herbal medicine as an effective healing agent
- It has the highest resistance to Comfrey Rust, the only known serious disease of comfrey
- The flower stems are relatively slender, breaking down more quickly when cut
How to identify Bocking 14
We do not recommend planting any comfrey other than Bocking 14 in a garden setting. Common comfrey and other comfrey cultivars will spread rapidly, and can be very difficult to remove, while Bocking 14 is sterile and will not spread by seeding.
We sell only genuine Bocking 14 comfrey. If you’re buying comfrey from elsewhere please check our guide to identifying Bocking 14 beforehand.