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Blueweed

Species
Echium vulgare

Blueweed was introduced from central and western Asia and Europe, (where it is known as “viper’s bugloss”). It is a biennial or short-lived perennial with attractive, bright purple-blue flowers borne along 30 cm to metre-tall stiffly upright stems. 

How does it spread?
Blueweed reproduces by seed or “nutlets” that are small, rough and hard, allowing them to survive up to three years buried at depths of 15 cm or more in the soil. The seeds are usually dropped close to the parent plant but are also distributed when attached to animal fur, clothing, hair and feathers. Seeds also disperse through contaminated hay/grain and via wind, rain and floodwater transport and by ants, equipment and vehicles. One plant can produce up to 2800 seeds.

Where would I find it?
Blueweed is a shade-intolerant plant that prefers disturbed, low to mid-elevation, dry, rocky or sandy, shallow, well-drained, nutrient-poor soils. It is often found growing along roadsides and in drainage ditches and other watercourses, as well as in right-of-ways, vacant lots, rangeland and overgrazed pastures and other disturbed sites.

What problems does it cause?
Once established, Blueweed spreads quickly across open and disturbed land. A combination of bristly hairs and the toxic alkaloids present in the leaves and stems (which affect liver function) makes the plant unpalatable to most grazing livestock and wildlife. The hairs may cause skin dermatitis in humans. Grazers will avoid it, giving the plant a competitive advantage over native plants, leading to a reduction in food production, crop forage areas and quality wildlife habitat. 

Additional Recommendations

  • Arctic Lupine (Lupinus arcticus) BC native (z2)
  • Heartleaf Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) (z4)

A provincial initiative coordinated by ISCBC

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