(Echium vulgare) Borage family

Flowers - Bright blue, afterward reddish purple, pink in the bud,

numerous, clustered on short, 1-sided, curved spikes rolled up at

first, and straightening out as flowers expand. Calyx deeply

5-cleft; corolla 1 in. long or less, funnel form, the 5 lobes

unequal, acute; 5 stamens inserted on corolla tube, the filaments

spreading below, and united above into slender appendage, the

anthers forming a cone. 1 pistil with 2 stigmas. Stem: 1 to 2 1/2

ft. high; bristly-hairy, erect, spotted. Leaves: Hairy, rough,

oblong to lance-shaped, alternate, seated on stem, except at base

of plant.

Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, waste places; roadsides.

Flowering Season - June-July.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Virginia, westward to Nebraska;

Europe and Asia.

In England, from whose gardens this plant escaped long ago, a war

of extermination that has been waged against the vigorous,

beautiful weed by the farmers has at last driven it to the

extremity of the island, where a few stragglers about Penzance

testify to the vanquishing of what must once have been a mighty

army. From England a few refugees reached here in i683, no one

knows how; but they proved to be the vanguard of an aggressive

and victorious host that quickly overran our open, hospitable

country, as if to give vent to revenge for long years of

persecution at the hands of Europeans. "It is a fact that all our

more pernicious weeds, like our vermin, are of Old-World origin,"

says.John Burroughs. "...Perhaps the most notable thing about

them, when compared with our native species, is their

persistence, not to say pugnacity. They fight for the soil; they

plant colonies here and there, and will not be rooted out. Our

native weeds are for the most part shy and harmless, and retreat

before civilization.... We have hardly a weed we can call our


Years ago, when simple folk believed God had marked plants with

some sign to indicate the special use for which each was

intended, they regarded the spotted stem of the bugloss, and its

seeds shaped like a serpent's head, as certain indications that

the herb would cure snake bites. Indeed, the genus takes its name

from Echis, the Greek for viper.

Because it is showy and offers accessible nectar, a great variety

of insects visit the blue-weed; Muller alone observed sixty-seven

species about it. We need no longer wonder at its fertility. Of

the five stamens one remains in the tube, while the other four

project and form a convenient alighting place for visitors, which

necessarily dust their under sides with pollen as they enter; for

the red anthers were already ripe when the flower opened. Then,

however, the short, immature pistil was kept below. After the

stamens have shed their pollen and there can be no longer danger

of self-fertilization, it gradually elongates itself beyond the

point occupied by them, and divides into two little horns whose

stigmatic surfaces an incoming pollen-laden insect cannot well

fail to strike against. Cross-pollination is so thoroughly

secured in this case that the plant has completely lost the power

of fertilizing itself. Unwelcome visitors like ants, which would

pilfer nectar without rendering any useful service in return, are

warded off by the bristly, hairy foliage. Several kinds of female

bees seek the bugloss exclusively for food for their larvae as

well as for themselves, sweeping up the abundant pollen with

their abdominal brushes as they feast without effort.