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Purple Viper's Bugloss

Echium plantagineum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
75 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, sea cliffs, seaside.

Purple, 2 petals
The purple tubular flowers appear in branched spikes. They each measure up to 3cm in size. Similar in appearance to Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) but is a shorter plant with 2 protruding stamens per flower. Viper's Bugloss has 4 or 5 stamens.
Wrinkled nutlets.
Lance-shaped leaves, rough and very hairy, up to 14cm long. The side veins are prominent. Annual or biennial.
Other Names:
Paterson's Curse, Salvation Jane.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Echium plantagineum, also known as purple viper's bugloss or Paterson's curse, is a species of flowering plant in the family Boraginaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region, but has been introduced to other parts of the world and is considered an invasive species in some areas. E. plantagineum is an annual herb that grows to a height of up to 1.5 meters. It has hairy, green leaves and small, purple or blue flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant is valued for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and skin conditions. However, it can be toxic if consumed in large amounts and has the potential to displace native vegetation when introduced to new areas.


Purple Viper's Bugloss, Echium plantagineum, is a stunning flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the Boraginaceae family and is commonly referred to as the Paterson's Curse in Australia.

This plant is known for its vibrant, eye-catching flowers that bloom in shades of deep blue, purple, and pink. The blooms are bell-shaped and are arranged in spikes on tall stems. The leaves are hairy, silver-grey, and have a soft texture, providing an attractive contrast to the vibrant flowers.

Purple Viper's Bugloss is a hardy plant that can withstand a range of growing conditions. It is drought-tolerant and can grow in a variety of soil types, making it an ideal choice for gardeners who want to add color to their landscapes. It is also attractive to bees and other pollinators, making it a great choice for those interested in promoting biodiversity in their gardens.

This plant is easy to care for and can be grown from seed or cuttings. It is best grown in full sun and requires well-drained soil. Once established, it is drought-tolerant and does not require much watering.

However, despite its beauty and hardiness, Purple Viper's Bugloss has a somewhat notorious reputation. In some areas, it is considered an invasive species and can quickly spread and dominate native plant populations. This is particularly true in Australia, where it was introduced as a decorative plant and has now become a major problem in some regions.

It is important to keep this in mind when growing Purple Viper's Bugloss and to be mindful of its potential to spread in your local area. Gardeners are advised to take steps to control its growth, such as removing flowers before they set seed and monitoring the plant's spread.

If you live in an area where Purple Viper's Bugloss is not considered an invasive species, you can enjoy this beautiful plant without worry. Simply plant it in a sunny spot in well-drained soil, water it occasionally, and enjoy the colorful blooms it provides.

In addition to its ornamental value, Purple Viper's Bugloss has a long history of medicinal uses. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including skin rashes, wounds, and respiratory problems. While its medicinal properties have not been extensively studied, it is believed that the plant contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

Aside from its ornamental and medicinal uses, Purple Viper's Bugloss is also an important food source for wildlife. The flowers are a nectar source for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, while the seeds and leaves provide food for birds and small mammals.

In some regions, the plant is also used as a natural dye. The blue and purple flowers contain pigments that can be used to dye fibers, fabrics, and even food. The plant's roots and leaves have been used to make a blue-green dye for wool, while the flowers have been used to produce a deep purple dye for silk and other fabrics.

Purple Viper's Bugloss is also a popular subject for photographers and artists. The vibrant flowers and silver-grey foliage make it a striking subject, and its ability to grow in a range of conditions makes it an ideal choice for capturing on camera or canvas.

In conclusion, Purple Viper's Bugloss is much more than just a beautiful flowering plant. It is a versatile species that provides a range of benefits to wildlife, humans, and the environment. Whether you are looking to add a touch of color to your garden, explore its medicinal properties, or capture its beauty in a photo or painting, Purple Viper's Bugloss is a plant that is worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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