The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Other Side of Beekeeping

Family Borginaceae: The Borage or Forget-Me-Not Family

- March 1, 2015 - - (excerpt)

The family Borginaceae consists of about 100 genera and 2000 species of mostly herbs and some shrubs and climbers. The family is found on all continents including Antarctica, but is generally from temperate and tropical parts of the world. About 22 genera are native to the U.S., many of them in the west.

The plants are often scabrous1 or hispid, the stems are round and the leaves are usually alternate, simple, entire and without stipules.2

The flowers are in coiled cymes3, are usually bisexual4, actinomorphic5, and usually have 5 petals, with the perianth6 inserted below the ovary (the ovary superior). The calyx consists of 5 free or basally fused sepals. The corolla7 consists of 5 united petals that at its base is tube-like and then either abruptly becomes 5 flattened petals or bell shaped. The 5 stamens are attached to the petals, at least sometimes, a fair distance up on the petals. The ovary consists of 2 united carpels8, but is divided into 4 chambers by what is sometimes referred to as a false septum. The four chambers are situated as if filling in the corners of a square that is just large enough to accommodate the arrangement. The pistil arises from the base of the four-chambered ovary and comes up through the central intersection of the four ovary chambers. Each chamber houses a single seed. The ovary sits above the attachment point of the petals (superior position).

The fruits are 4 nutlets9 or achenes (sometimes fewer by abortion) or rarely a drupe.

This becomes an easy family to identify when one becomes familiar with its harsh surface character and strange unfolding cyme.

The family provides timber, medicinal plants, dyes, and many ornamentals.[8, 15, &18]

Blueweed, blue-devil, blue thistle, viper’s bugloss,
viperine, blue devil, langue d’oie

Scientific name: Echium vulgare

Origin: Europe and Asia

Plant description: Echium vulgare is generally a biennial10, only occasionally an annual or short lived perennial, and reproduces only by seed. During its first year it produces a rosette of long narrow hairy leaves and a deeply penetrating tap root. During the second year, only rarely the first year, it produces a coarse 30 to 90 cm (~11.8 to 35.4 in), usually single, but sometimes up to 3 erect flower stems from the tap root. The stems are harshly hairy with scattered stiff white longer hairs among dense shorter hairs, the long hairs often having small reddish or blackish blisters or pustules at their base.

The basal leaves are oblanceolate11, to 25 cm (~9.8 in) long and 3 cm (~1.2 in) wide and taper to a petiole-like base. The stem leaves become progressively smaller with height and ultimately becoming sessile.12 The leaves are all bristly, pustulate-bristly13, or with coarse stiff hairs that are painful to the touch and can cause a dermatitis.

The flowers are sessile and arranged in 1-sided short arching branches that are coiled at first but later elongate to about 7 cm (~2.8 in) when the fruit is produced. The flowers are funnelform14 and about 1 to 2 cm (~0.39 to 0.79 in) long, almost always blue, but are also rarely pink or white. The upper floral lobes are longer than the lower lobes. There are 5 stamens, 4 along with the hairy stigma15 extending beyond the corolla. The fifth stamen is somewhat shorter and contained within the corolla.[1&5]

Distribution: The species is often a pernicious pasture weed and is found on roadsides, weedy pastures, fields and waste places. It frequently is not abundant at a site for long periods.[1&8] Crane et al.[4] describe the habitat of the species, probably primarily from an European perspective, as dry, open places, sand dunes, roadsides, cultivated fields, dry pastures, chalky hills, sea cliffs16 at altitudes <2000m (~ 6562 ft ).

Blooming period: Kaul[8], in Flora of the Great Plains, provides a blooming date range of …