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Viper's Bugloss

Echium vulgare

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Boraginaceae (Borage)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
80 centimetres tall
Meadows, riverbanks, roadsides, sand dunes, wasteland.

Blue, 2 petals
Pink buds which turn into a dense spike of funnel-shaped blue flowers. Downy sepals and 4-5 pink stamens.
Wrinkled nutlets, mossy in appearance.
The simple, rough, hairy, entire leaves are long and narrow with a prominent midrib. 1 alternate leaf per node.
Not fragrant.
Other Names:
Blue Bugle, Blue Devil, Blue Echium, Blueweed, Carpet Bugleweed, Common Bugle, Common Bugleweed, Creeping Bugleweed, Snake Flower.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Echium vulgare, also known as viper's bugloss or blue echium, is a species of flowering plant in the family Boraginaceae. It is native to Europe and is commonly found in grassland, meadows, and pastures. E. vulgare is a biennial herb that grows to a height of up to 1.5 meters. It has hairy, green leaves and small, blue or purple 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. E. vulgare is also grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and is known for its ability to tolerate dry, rocky soil.


Viper's bugloss, also known as Echium vulgare, is a wildflower native to Europe and Asia. This plant is a member of the Boraginaceae family, which is known for its colorful and attractive flowers. Viper's bugloss is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. In its first year, it grows a rosette of leaves, and in its second year, it produces a tall stem with bright blue flowers.

The name "Viper's bugloss" refers to the rough, hairy leaves that resemble the skin of a viper. The plant is also known for its long, narrow, and pointed leaves that grow in a rosette pattern. The leaves are green or gray-green and covered in small, stiff hairs. In the second year, the plant produces a tall stem that can grow up to 2 meters tall. At the top of the stem, clusters of bright blue, tubular flowers bloom from June to September.

Viper's bugloss is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soil conditions, including rocky and sandy soils. It is also drought-tolerant and can survive in hot and dry conditions. The plant is often found in open fields, meadows, and along roadsides.

In addition to its ornamental value, viper's bugloss has a number of traditional medicinal uses. The plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and digestive issues. The plant's seeds were also used as a source of food in some parts of Europe.

Viper's bugloss is a beautiful and versatile plant that can be grown in a variety of gardens, including wildflower gardens and meadows. The plant's bright blue flowers and tall stems make it a standout in any garden, and its hardiness and adaptability make it an easy plant to care for. Whether you're looking to add some color to your garden or you're interested in its traditional medicinal uses, viper's bugloss is a fascinating and attractive plant to add to your collection.

Viper's bugloss is also a valuable plant for pollinators, especially bees and butterflies. The tubular shape of the flowers and the presence of nectar make them an ideal food source for these important insects. By planting viper's bugloss in your garden, you can help support local pollinator populations and contribute to the health of the ecosystem.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, viper's bugloss has also been used for a variety of industrial purposes. The plant's seeds contain a high level of oil, which can be used for fuel, lubrication, and industrial applications. The plant's fibers have also been used for a variety of textiles, including rope and cloth.

Despite its many uses, viper's bugloss can also be invasive in some areas. In some parts of the world, it has escaped cultivation and become established in natural habitats, where it can outcompete native species and alter local ecosystems. Gardeners should take care to plant viper's bugloss in contained areas and should be mindful of its potential to spread if grown in areas where it is not native.

It's important to note that viper's bugloss can also cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals. The plant's leaves, stem, and flowers are covered in stiff hairs that can cause itching, redness, and blistering if they come into contact with the skin. People with sensitive skin or allergies should exercise caution when handling the plant and should consider wearing gloves and long sleeves to protect their skin.

In addition, viper's bugloss can also be toxic to livestock if consumed in large quantities. The plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and other health problems if consumed over a long period of time. Livestock owners should take care to prevent their animals from grazing on viper's bugloss and should seek veterinary care if they suspect their animals have been poisoned.

Despite these potential drawbacks, viper's bugloss is still a valuable plant with a long history of use. Whether you're looking to add color to your garden, support local pollinator populations, or simply learn about this fascinating plant, viper's bugloss is a great choice. Just be sure to exercise caution and follow best practices when growing this plant to ensure that it doesn't become a problem in your area.


Viper's Bugloss filmed at Orford, Suffolk on the 28th June 2022.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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