Echium vulgare is a biennial herb, 30-100 cm tall gray-green, from a taproot, stems bristly-hairy, often with small red dot at base of each bristle; hairs irritating.
Leaves initially in a basal rosette, narrow, widest above middle, 6-25 cm long including stalk, 0.5-3 cm wide, stem leaves becoming smaller upward, stalkless.
Flowers bright blue, (occasionally pink or white) showy, to 2 cm long, tubular, irregular, funnel-shaped, petal lobes 5, unequal, stamens and stigma longer than petal lobes, flowers embedded in small hairy bracts; inflorescence of one-sided spikes in axils along top part of stem, immature spikes coiled (circinate, scorpioid, helicoid), unrolling as flowers develop and bloom. Pollinated Visited by bumblebees and numerous other insects probably for nectar (Klemow et al. 2002).
Fruit of 1-4 nutlets; blooming and fruiting June-Sept. Seeds dispersed mostly by falling to ground by parent plant but also by attachment of old flowers to fur or clothing, plant may also break off and act as a tumbleweed (Klemow et al. 2002).
Wetland status: NL.
Frequency in NYC: Very infrequent.
Origin: Southern Europe.
Habitat: Roadsides, fields, dry soil.
Notes: Produces toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, but has been used as a medicinal since ancient times. Plants fed upon by a number of insects and is infected by several fungi (Klemow et al. 2002). Listed as a noxious weed in 46 states (USDA, NRCS 2010).