COMMON GROMWELL

Lithospermum officinale

Borage Family [Boraginaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8cream
inner
inner8green
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round

8th June 2016, Gait Barrows NNR, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD


10th June 2012, margins of a Yew woods, Watlington Hill, Chilterns. Photo: © Peter Townsend
A well-branched tall perennial to 1m.


22nd June 2009, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Inhabits margins of woods and scrub, usually on lime soils.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The background may look like the sea, but it is actually rain-soaked smooth-worn limestone pavement. This specimen much less branched than first.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Birds-eye View. Most flowers at the summit.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Leaves are narrow, lanceolate and stalkless.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Leaves deeply veined. Flowers creamy white.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The summit of the plant has much shorter and more twisted leaves similar to those of Bugloss. The upwardly-directed narrow green-sepals cradle growing nutlets where the flowers once were, similar to the browned one between them.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Sepals long, hairy and cupping the flower.


8th June 2016, Gait Barrows NNR, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are surrounded by some narrower leaves. sepals long, green, with long hairs. Un-opened flowers (NW and SE of centre) are pale green, long and narrow and only just peeping out of the parallel sepal teeth.


8th June 2016, Gait Barrows NNR, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Both stamens (of which there are 5) and style (only one) are 'included' (which means they are hidden deep inside the flower. Those extra 5 tinier 'petals' in the middle of the ordinary petals are typical for flowers in the Borage Family (but your Author still doesn't know what they are, or what they are called. Could they be nectar glands?).


22nd June 2009, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Flowers off-white with five rounded petals and five central bumps (nectar channels / honey guides) similar to those on Bugloss (Anchusa arvensis) or Green Alkanet (Pentaglotis sempervirens).


22nd June 2009, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Has five long tapering and roughly-hairy sepals. Leaves have small bumps where the hairs emerge, like goose-pimples.


22nd June 2009, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Roughly hairy. Leaves narrow lanceolate. Flowers grouped into threes, twos or singly.


22nd June 2009, Hawes Water, Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The small shiny nutlets progress through being grey, through orange-brown to pure white. Stems have much shorter hairs. Leaves hairier and greyer on the obverse.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The fruits (nutlets) appear as small very shiny grey egg-shaped nuggets nestling at the centre of the five much longer sepals, which go brown later before becoming porcelain white.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The nutlets go paler resembling a shiny pearl.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Which eventually turn pure-white like small hard and shiny ceramic eggs which are held very close to the stem.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The sepals turn brown retaining their white hairs. The nutlets usually in two's or three's.


9th Aug 2014, dune slacks, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The sepals, which have longer hairs than the leaves, have dropped off the lower pair of nutlets, but are still surrounding and hiding the one to three above.


16th Sept 2009, under Warton Crag, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The nutlets like tiny egg-shaped porcelain-white billiard balls, spherical but for a stubby conical apex.


7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The chip in the 'enamel' of the lower 'porcelain' fruit shows its thickness.


10th June 2012, margins of a Yew woods, Watlington Hill, Chilterns. Photo: © Peter Townsend
Lower leaves are still lanceolate but much longer than those at the top of the stems, slightly drooping and with curving veins.


9th Aug 2014, dune slacks, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The hairs have tiny glands at their base.


Some similarities to :

  • Corn Gromwell [aka Field Gromwell] (Lithospermum arvense) but that has nutlets which are pale grey-brown and shiny-warty ('tuberculate'). At 50-80cm tall is shorter than Common Gromwell [80-100cm] but has larger flowers (5-9mm across [as opposed to 3-6mm across for Common Gromwell]). It now only seems to grow mainly in Berkshire or Hampshire and a few scattered locations in the SE. It hasn't been seen in the locations above since before the 1930's, according to the BSBI maps.
  • Purple Gromwell (Lithospermum purpureocaeruleum) which initially has red-purple flowers maturing a striking blue, is a much rarer [RRR] and is also un-branched, but whose nutlets are also shiny and white like those of Common Gromwell. At only ~60cm tall it is shorter than either Field Gromwell or Common Gromwell but has larger flowers (11-16mm across) than either.
Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

The flowers are small, few in number and mostly inconspicuous most of the time.


  Lithospermum officinale  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Boraginaceae  

Distribution
 family8Borage family8Boraginaceae
BSBI maps
genus8Lithospermum
Lithospermum
(Gromwells)

COMMON GROMWELL

Lithospermum officinale

Borage Family [Boraginaceae]