Donnerstag, 1. November 2012

Plant of the Day (November 1st, 2012) - Echium vulgare L.

This time, I want to show you Echium vulgare L. This species belongs to the Boraginaceae family and is known as “Gemeiner Natternkopf” in German and “Viper's Bugloss” or “Blueweed”.

  E. vulgare - habitus

It's a biennial plant, which can reach heights between 25 and 200 centimetres (9.8 to 78.7 inches). The round stalk grows upright and is covered with many bristles, what is typical for the Boraginaceae. The same also applies for the leaves, which are lanceolate and about 10 centimetres long.

E. vulgare - flower and bristles

The inflorescence is a single, compact panicle, which is also called thyrse. The flowers are funnel-shaped and look like the maw of a viper, what is also the reason for the English and the German name (“Natternkopf” means “Viper's Head”). The petals are pink first but become deep purple later. Flowering time is between May and September.

  E. vulgare -flower

The ripe fruits are small nuts, which disintegrates into four small fruits. This type of fruit is called chiusa (Klausen in German) and is an unique feature of the Boraginaceae and the Lamiaceae.

  E. vulgare -habitus

E. vulgare is native to Europa and West Asia but can also be found as neophyte in North America. It grows on dry and stony places. So, it can be found on ruderal wastelands, slopes and at roadsides and railroad tracks. The species is also very popular for apiarists, because the flowers are rich of nectar.

All parts of E. vulgare contain a special types of alkaloids: the Pyrrolizidine. These alkaloids are a toxic and can cause liver damage.

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