VIPER'S BUGLOSS

Echium vulgare

Borage Family [Boraginaceae]  

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8bicolour
 
flower
flower8blue
 
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ2
 
type
typeZtrumpet
 
stem
stem8round
 
stem
stem8spines stem8thorns
spines
toxicity
toxicityZmedium
 
contact
contactZmedium
 

9th Sept 2009, Blackleach Resr, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Grows up to 75cm high. Leaves in a basal rosette and shorter ones to half way up the stem.


31st May 2007, north Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A pink bud before it opens into a blue flower.


9th Sept 2009, Blackleach Resr, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Flower buds start to open from those nearest the stem first, progressing outwards until only the most remote is left flowering. Unopened flower buds are curled over reminiscent of those of Tansy-Leaved Phacelia but not as long.


9th Sept 2009, Blackleach Resr, Walkden, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Flower buds initially reddish-pink before opening to blue with purple.


3rd Sept 2005, a nature reserve in Kelsey, near Delamere, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
This nature reserve was over-run by Viper's Bugloss.


3rd Sept 2005, a nature reserve in Kelsey, near Delamere, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
All but the most remote flowers have opened and gone to nutlets leaving just the single flowers on the extremities.


21st June 2007, Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester. Photo: © RWD
All but the terminal flowers have been and gone to seed (nutlets).


21st June 2007, Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester. Photo: © RWD


21st June 2007, Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester. Photo: © RWD


3rd Sept 2005, a nature reserve in Kelsey, near Delamere, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Note the four or five reddish-purple stamens rudely protruding bearing a ball of grey-blue pollen on the tip, and an even longer pinkish style with a short forked tip.


21st June 2007, Castlefield Canal Basin, Manchester. Photo: © RWD


31st May 2007, north Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A young plant, squirming to be upright with contorted leaves.


31st May 2007, north Walney Island, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Leaves of young plant, already half contorted.


3rd Sept 2005, a nature reserve in Kelsey, near Delamere, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The stem bristles, which emerge from an enlarged and dark-red base, are stiff and sharp enough to prick unwary fingers! Ouch!


9th Aug 2014, Hightown, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Basal rosette remains in place as plant matures. Leaves elliptical, without teeth but with short white hairs on the edge.


9th Aug 2014, Hightown, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Basal leaves have white pimples on the surface from which short white hairs grow.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics: A narrow but tallish (to 1 metre) plant that is roughly hairy with a single and very impressive spire of brilliant blue varying to purple flowers close to the stem. Quite a display! Often in clumps. Note the four or five reddish-purple stamens rudely protruding bearing a ball of grey-blue pollen on the tip, and an even longer pinkish style with a short forked tip.

Some similarities to: Purple Viper's Bugloss but that has purple flowers and is far rarer and now found only near Land's End.

It can be an invasively-spreading nuisance plant in some other countries. Just like Ragweed, Viper's Bugloss also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which on ingestion are toxic to the liver.

The plant has both stiff hairs and fine hairs. The stiff hairs are bristly enough to pierce skin and cause severe dermatitis.

Viper's Bugloss, like many other plants of Genus Echium, contain toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). PAs are mutagenic and carcinogenic as well as hepatoxic, poisoning the liver.

Due to its poisonous alkaloid content, it was once an important treatment for snake venom, in particular bites from Vipers (hence the name).

The root yields a red fabric dye.

A PYRROLIZIDINE ALKALOID

Heliosupine is an open diester pyrrolizidine alkaloid contained within Viper's Bugloss which has been associated with the poisoning of sheep and cattle (who have eaten it) resulting in toxic cirrhosis of the liver, and resembles poisoning by Ragwort, which contains a plethora of other pyrrolizidine alkaloids including cynoglossine. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids become activated in the liver. They alkylate DNA molecules and are mutagenic, teratogenic, carcinogenic and hepatotoxic. Poisoning of sheep by this weed has been observed in Australia.


  Echium vulgare  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Boraginaceae  

Distribution
family8borage family8Boraginaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8echium
Echium
(Viper's-bugloss)

VIPER'S BUGLOSS

Echium vulgare

Borage Family [Boraginaceae]  

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