Viper’s Bugloss

2022 July 31

I spotted this plant growing beside the road on July 29, 2022. It was fairly tall (about up to my knee) and stood out clearly from the patch of clover it was growing in.

It had a number of attractive purple-blue flowers, and the leaves were a bit spiky, kind of like soft spruce needles.

The blossoms started up more of a reddish violet as buds, turning purple as the bloom unfolds, but with the flower stamens remaining more violet.

This was a new plant to me, and it wasn’t in our book of wildflowers found in the Keweenaw. So Sandy posted it to the “what’s this plant” subreddit, and within half an hour we got a suggested ID. It’s a “Viper’s Bugloss”, Echium vulgare, also known as “Blueweed”And yes, this is another Eurasian import. It has become established in much of the central and eastern US. It has apparently just recently started appearing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which would be why I hadn’t seen it before. It is sometimes planted as an ornamental, and evidently escaped from cultivation.

This is one of the class of “invasive” plants that like to grow in disturbed areas, like roadsides, pastures, and places where other plants have been destroyed one way or another. It sounds like they don’t really push out other plants, but they do get very visible when they grow alongside roads where people can see them easily. It is a bit of a problem in pastures. Grazing livestock don’t like it much, but they will eat it if there is nothing else, and it unfortunately causes serious liver damage when eaten.

2 Responses
  1. August 17, 2022

    Rather diffident flowers, I’d say. It’s kind of like backing vocals in a song. They’re not meant to be the stars of the meadow, but they provide a nice bed of color for the real stars with bolder hues.

  2. August 17, 2022

    Yes, I think I might have just recently found these in a garden that I walk by regularly. Except that these tend to grow flat to the ground and provide a background for other plants. It looks like they grow tall when left to their own devices, but when clipped they turn into a low ground cover.

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