Boraginaceae: Borage Family — Miscellaneous

Most members of the Borage family have their flowers arranged in coiled (scorpiod) cymes.  They bloom from the base upwards, gradually unfurling like a scorpion’s tail or caterpillar, as new flowers emerge.

Grand Hound’s Tongue – Cynoglossum grande

Blooms:

Feb–Apr

Plant Height:

15–75 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry, shaded slopes

Notes:

This is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring.  It has an erect stem, with coiled clusters of small blue/purple, forget-me-not like flowers with white appendages at the base of the petals.  Leaves are mostly basal, each with a long blade reminiscent of a panting dog’s tongue.  Fruits have 4 spreading, prickly nutlets.

Pride of Madeira – Echium candicans

Blooms:

Feb–Oct

Plant Height:

1–3 m

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Madeira

Invasive?

Yes – limited

Habitat:

Garden escape

Notes:

This is frequently cultivated, and sometimes escapes to become naturalized.  A leafy shrub, which tends to become leggy as it ages.  Leaves are narrowly elliptic, 6–25 cm long.  The inflorescence is a dramatic 15–40 cm tall, tight, elliptic spike with a multitude of bluish-purple flowers.  Close examination shows they are in the characteristic coiled form of the Borage family.  The attractiveness of the plant diminishes rapidly after flowering.  Photo #2 by CJH.

Pride of Madeira

Tower of Jewels – Echium pininana

Blooms:

May–Aug

Plant Height:

2–3 m

Flower Size:

Large cluster

Origin:

Canary Islands

Habitat:

Garden escape

Notes:

Much less common than Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans, see above), but occasionally escapes to become naturalized.  Both leaves and the inflorescence bears a close similarity to Pride of Madeira, but the inflorescence is much taller (> 100 cm).  Also, the leaves, in addition to a basal rosette, are clustered densely on the stem right up to the base of the inflorescence.

Seaside Heliotrope / Chinese Pusley – Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum

Blooms:

Feb–Oct

Plant Height:

Stems 10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Saline or alkaline soils, many communities

Notes:

Both stems and the oblanceolate leaves are fleshy, generally prostrate or ascending.  The inflorescence forms a loose coil, with double rows of symmetrically placed flowers.  Individual flowers are white, with a narrowly bell-shaped tube, and a yellowish-to-purple throat with 5 distinct veins.  Photos #2 and 4 by CJH.

Heliotrope, Seaside
Heliotrope, Seaside

Changing Forget-me-not – Myosotis discolor

Blooms:

April–July

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Roadsides, moist ground, wet meadows

Notes:

A smaller plant than Broad-leaved Forget-me-not (Myosotis latifolia, see below), and with much smaller flowers (1–3 mm diameter compared to 5–10 mm).  This gets its name from the flowers, which start out yellow but turn blue (or red) with age, both colors being found on the same inflorescence.  Leaves are sparse, the lower leaves oblanceolate, and the cauline leaves linear to oblong.

Broad-leaved Forget-me-not – Myosotis latifolia

Blooms:

Feb–July

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Northwest Africa

Invasive?

Yes – limited

Habitat:

Sunny, sandy places, woodland

Notes:

This is a small plant with many blue flowers in a coiled cluster, each about 1 cm across.  It is similar in shape to others in the Borage family, such as Hound’s Tongue and popcornflowers.  The lower leaves are generally larger and ovate, the cauline leaves a little smaller and oblong.