Echium vulgare

Claire compiled today’s entry:

Steve H from Northumberland, UK submitted the close-up photograph of Echium vulgare flowers via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum. Thank you Steve! The second photograph of the plants growing in the dry ditch and forming a mosaic of blue was taken by Daniel mid-June in 2009, in Lower Nicola, British Columbia.

Viper’s bugloss, blue-devil and blueweed are some common names for Echium vulgare. The species is a native of Europe and much of central Asia, but it has also naturalized in other parts of the world as well, including North America.

There are over 2700 species in Boraginaceae recognized worldwide (with most from Europe and Asia), though that number may change as the phylogeny of the group is resolved (see the Classification section from the link — may be split into possibly 11 families!). Like Echium vulgare, many species in this family are herbs with prickly-hairy leaves. The coarseness of the hairs (caused by silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate deposits) can be quite an irritant to skin if plants are handled. Though the annual, biennial or short-lived perennial Echium vulgare is ornamental with its succession of blue flowers (caused by anthocyanin pigments) and height (to 1-2m, though sometimes shorter), it can also be a noxious, persistent weed in some regions. If interested in it for your garden, please take the time to research whether it is an appropriate planting for your area.

Other species of Echium are known to contain alkaloid compounds that can cause harm to livestock, even killing cattle, sheep and horses. Another member of the genus, Echium plantagineum, has been cited by the NNFCC (UK’s National Non-foods Crop Centre) as being a useful oil crop (link to page with fact sheet).

Echium vulgare
Echium vulgare

12 responses to “Echium vulgare”

  1. Renee Galeano-Popp

    This is a “noxious weed” in “these here parts” (Wyoming/Colorado). It came in on the train somehow in the past 10 yrs. Pretty tho!

  2. Michael F

    “and height (to 1-2m, though sometimes shorter)” – I’d say almost always shorter; typically 0.4-1m, very rarely over 1m, and I’ve certainly never seen one anywhere remotely near 2m tall.

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    One of the links makes reference to seeds collected from plants exceeding 2m in height.

  4. Calochilus

    Here in Australia E. plantagineum is a truly awesome noxious weed, much more floriferous and more adaptable than E. vulgare. I’d almost give my eye teeth for a sterile hybrid of the two, vegetativly propagated it has the potential for a good garden plant in temperate areas. Echium species that are perennial or biennial are already well established so a new one should find ready acceptance.

  5. Michael F

    “One of the links makes reference to seeds collected from plants exceeding 2m in height” – odd! Maybe in hotter climates, or on richer garden soil? The native wild plants I see are typically on barren sandy soils.

  6. Donald DeLano

    I have grown it as an ornamental, and with loamy, well drained soil rich in nutrients here in Souther California, it sometimes gets over 2m in height. But watch out – it will come up everywhere you do not want it to.

  7. doris

    I love this plant. The rosettes are beautiful when it is not blooming. I keep it in a pot in dry gritty soil. Blooms are about 1 meter. Dramatic.

  8. Elizabeth Revell

    A noxious weed in New Zealand too, particularly in Central Otago with its long hot dry summers and autumns (30+C) and its cold snowy winters. Unfortunately the plague of rabbits don’t much like it either! So the locals make the best of a bad job and get the bees to produce delectable honey from it … yum.

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    florida seems to have escaped this plant so far- so pretty to be noxious
    dh lawernce-i am amazed at this spring this confagration
    of green fires lit on the soil of this earth this blaze
    of growing and the sparks that puff in wild gyration
    thank you daniel and every one

  10. Irma in Sweden

    Here in Sweden it is known as blue fire and it is a truly awsome sight to see it in flower on the almost barren sandy places on the islands of Öland and Gotland. It is like a blue haze that matches the waves of the Baltic.

  11. Barbara Lamb

    I have always wondered what “viper’s bugloss” meant.

  12. Barbara Lamb

    Aha! This from “Andy’s Northern Ontario Wildflowers”
    “Folklore states that Viper’s Bugloss was a remedy for snake bites. The name Bugloss is of Greek origin and signifies an Ox’s Tongue, and was applied to the plant because of its roughness and shape of the leaves.”
    Thanks, Andy

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