Houndstongue is a biennial with a thick woody taproot. The leaves and
stem are usually softly pubescent. The basal and lower leaves are oblong
to oblong-lanceolate tapering to a long petiole-like base. The upper leaves
are alternate becoming shorter and narrower with the uppermost leaves
appearing sessile and almost clasping. The cymes are numerous, solitary
in the axils of the upper leaves becoming raceme-like in fruit. The flowers
are reddish-purple, broadly funnelform in shape. The fruit is a brown
nutlet covered with short barbed bristles.
During its first year of growth, Houndstongue appears as a leafy rosette.
During the second year of growth, the coarse erect plants can reach 6
dm tall becoming branched above. It can invade disturbed pastures, roadsides,
forest edges, and meadows. Plants often emit a musty odor.
Houndstongue is toxic to horses and cattle. Alkaloids contained within
the plant may cause liver cells to stop reproducing.