Echium vulgare L. - Blue Weed, Bugloss

Echium vulgare plant

Family - Boraginaceae

Stems - To +1m tall, erect, lateral stems often ascending, typically multiple from base, simple, herbaceous, from big taproot, green with purple spotting (from spine bases), dense pubescent and also with straight spines. Spines clear and crystalline.

Echium vulgare stem

Leaves - Alternate, sessile. The basal and lower cauline leaves to +15cm long, 3cm broad. all leaves entire, acute, linear to linear lanceolate or linear-oblong, with single midvein, strigose above and below, with spines on midrib below, green above, light green below.

Echium vulgare leaves

Inflorescence - Axillary and terminal scorpoid racemes from upper 2/3 of stem. Racemes subtended by foliaceous bracts. Flowers secund, sessile, each subtended by a lanceolate bract. Bracts typically equaling the calyx. Bracts and axis of inflorescence pubescent and with spines.

Echium vulgare inflorescence

Flowers - Corolla shallowly 5-lobed, zygomorphic, blue-purple to pink, to 1.5cm long. Corolla tube sericeous externally, glabrous internally. Lobes rounded, the upper two larger and extended further than the lower three. Stamens 5, adnate near base of corolla tube, opposite of corolla lobes, exserted. Filaments 1.3cm long, reddish, glabrous. Anthers greyish-green, .6mm broad. Style densely pubescent, pinkish-red, 2cm long. Stigma 2-lobed, 1.5mm long. Ovary superior, 4-lobed, 2mm in diameter, subtended by nectariferous ring. Lobes rounded, glabrous, green. Sepals 5, green, attenuate, spined and pubescent externally, glabrous internally, to 8mm long in flower, distinct. Calyx accrescent. Fruit 1-seeded. Many times only one of the four lobes of the ovary developing into a mature fruit.

Echium vulgare flower

Echium vulgare flower

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Waste ground, roadsides, gravel bars, sand bars.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Other info. - This striking species is best viewed and not touched. The sharp spines, which cover the plant, are a powerful deterrent and become lodged in the skin much like those of a cactus. This species is becoming common in many areas of Missouri and should not be willingly spread. It would be a good garden subject in an area of little water.
Traditionally the leaves of the plant were boiled and made into a tea which helped fevers and headaches. The plant contains alkaloids.

Photographs taken off Highway 106 in Ellington, MO., 6-8-01, and off Hwy 40, Iron County, MO., 6-1-03.


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