Blueweed, Echium vulgare

Life Cycle

Biennial, occasionally annual or short-lived perennial.

Propagation

Reproducing only by seed.

Stems

Stems erect 30 - 90 cm high, 1 to several from each taproot, harshly hairy with a mixture of a few, scattered, long, stiff hairs among dense short hair, the longer hair having swollen reddish or blackish bases visible as small bumps on the stem surface (Fig 6).

Leaves

First-year plant producing a rosette of long, narrow, harshly hairy leaves (Fig 7). The flowering stem is produced mainly in the second year, rarely in the first year and the plant acting as an annual. The stem leaves are alternate (1 per node), similar to the basal leaves but smaller and narrower, harshly hairy, most hair stiff with swollen bases (Fig 5).

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers numerous in 1-sided, short, arching branches near the top of the stem; petals bright blue, forming an irregular corolla with the upper lobes longer than the lower ones (Fig 3). The 5 stamens plus the hairy stigma protruding from the corolla (Fig 4); seeds in the form of 4 hard, gray or brown, very rough nutlets about 3 mm long. Flowers from June until autumn.

Roots and Underground Structures

Deeply penetrating fleshy taproot.

Habitat

Blueweed occurs throughout Ontario in coarse sandy or gravelly soil in pastures, waste places and roadsides. The bright blue flowers are attractive and provide significant pasture for honeybees. When the plant matures, the stiff hair of stem, leaves, and sepal becomes very sharp and hard and causes severe physical irritation to tender skin.

Distinguishing Features

Blueweed is distinguished by its deep thick taproot, long narrow rosette leaves, erect stem with short 1-sided branched of bright blue flowers, unequally lobed corolla with protruding stamens, its clusters of 4 hard, bony, rough nutlets, and by being harshly rough-hairy throughout.


Figure #1.

Blueweed plant.


Figure #2.

Bright blue flower of blueweed.


Figure #3.


Figure #4.

Stamens and hairy stigma of blueweed flower.


Figure #5.

Leaf of blueweed.


Figure #6.

Erect, harshly hairy stem of blueweed with swollen reddish bumbs at the base of each hair.


Figure #7.

Taproot and basal leaves of blueweed.


Figure #8.

Blueweed growing along a roadside in Central Ontario in early July.