Alkanets & Allies

Common Lungwort Yellow Nonea Field Bugloss Common Fiddleneck

What are they?

These plants are members of the borage family (Boraginaceae). A number of these plants have been used culturally for thousands of years, either as herbs, for their medicinal qualities or as providers of various dyes. This is a very variable group that includes both annuals and perennials, upright plants and ones that form spreading mats. Their common thread is in their flowers, which consist of five petals fused into a tube at the base, but opening to five, rounded lobes at the mouth. Most (and perhaps all) of these plants are not native in our region and may have originated either as escaped garden ornamentals or as accidental introductions as contaminants of crop species.

Where are they found?

The smaller annual species are generally weeds of arable land, usually on lighter soils. Those that originate from gardens may be found persisting for a while in grassy places on roadsides or rough ground.

Identification

The identification of most species is generally not too difficult and is based on a combination of flower colour and leaf details. With the leaves, you should note the overall shape of the leaf and whether it has any markings on it such as pale spots or bumps.

If you don't see your plant on this page, you might want to check some of the other members of the borage family by clicking here



Common Lungwort      Pulmonaria officinalis

Introduced as a garden ornamental and occasionally found as a garden escape on roadsides and grassy places. Persistent and often spreads to form small colonies of plants. Flowers March to May. A patch-forming species that grows to 30cm in height and has distinctly spotted leaves. Red flower buds turn purple as they open.

Common Lungwort Common Lungwort Common Lungwort Common Lungwort
Habit
Flowers
Early leaves
Leaf


Unspotted Lungwort      Pulmonaria obscura

Considered native and very rare, found only in three small woods in north Suffolk (though widespread in mainland Europe). Flowers March to May. A patch-forming species that grows to 30cm in height and has unspotted leaves. Red flower buds turn purple as they open.

Unspotted Lungwort Unspotted Lungwort Unspotted Lungwort Unspotted Lungwort
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Leaf


Field Bugloss      Lycopsis arvensis

An ancient introduction, now widespread on lighter, sandier soils in cultivated ground. Flowers mostly May to September. Flowers are small and clustered towards the top of the stems. The whole plant is bristly hairy.

Field Bugloss Field Bugloss Field Bugloss Field Bugloss
Habit
Flowers
Flower & seed capsules
Leaf


Common Alkanet      Anchusa officinalis

Introduced from mainland Europe as a garden ornamental and occasionally found as a garden escape on roadsides and grassy places. Flowers June to September. An upright plant to 100cm in height but often much less. Flowers bright blue with the calyx tube divided to about half way to the base (sometimes more). Can be difficult to tell from Large Blue Alkanet without measuring the seeds, which are typically less than 5mm across.

Common Alkanet Common Alkanet Common Alkanet Common Alkanet
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Large Blue Alkanet      Anchusa azurea

(Azure Alkanet) Introduced from mainland Europe as a garden ornamental and occasionally found as a garden escape on roadsides and grassy places. Flowers June to September. An upright plant to 150cm in height but often less. Flowers deep blue with the calyx tube divided almost to the base. Can be difficult to tell from Common Alkanet without measuring the seeds, which are typically more than 5mm across.

Large Blue Alkanet
Habit


Common Hound's-tongue      Cynoglossum officinale

Native. Absent from much of the region but can be locally common on sandy soil in Breckland, the Suffolk Sandlings and the West Norfolk greensand areas. Flowers June to August. Readily told by the deep maroon colour of its flowers and its long, strongly veined leaves.

Common Hound's-tongue Common Hound's-tongue Common Hound's-tongue Common Hound's-tongue
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Seed capsules


Common Fiddleneck      Amsinckia micrantha

Introduced from western North America and now a locally common plant on sandy, arable land in Breckland, the Suffolk Sandlings and the Norfolk heath areas. Flowers June to September. A slender, straggling, bristly plant that may vary from a few centimetres in height to nearly a metre tall. Tiny yellow flowers open a few at a time from a gradually uncurling flower spike, in the manner of forget-me-nots.

Common Fiddleneck Common Fiddleneck Common Fiddleneck Common Fiddleneck
Habit
Flowers
Leaves
Seed capsules


Yellow Nonea      Nonea lutea

Introduced as a garden ornamental and occasionally found as a garden escape on roadsides and grassy places. Flowers April to June. A low, bistly hairy plant, 10-60cm in height and spreading to form leafy colonies. Flowers pale yellow, 6-10mm across. Leaves typically with pale bumps on the upper surface.

Yellow Nonea Yellow Nonea Yellow Nonea Yellow Nonea
Habit
Habit
Flower
Leaf


Common Gromwell      Lithospermum officinale

Native in undisturbed, grassy commons and hedge banks on chalk soils in the west of the region. Generally uncommon and declining. Flowers June to July. A stiff, upright species to a metre in height with stiff leaves that have impressed veins. Flowers small, cream in colour and followed by rock hard, pale purple nutlets. Flowers small, cream in colour and followed by rock hard, pale purple nutlets.

Common Gromwell Common Gromwell Common Gromwell Common Gromwell
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Fruit


Field Gromwell      Buglossoides arvense

An ancient introduction, probably present on thin, chalky soils as an annual of cultivated ground since Bronze Age times but now much depleted by modern agriculture and regionally rare. Flowers May to July. Smaller than Common Gromwell, to 50cm in height with soft leaves that don't have impressed veins. Flowers small, white in colour.

Field Gromwell Field Gromwell Field Gromwell Field Gromwell
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Purple Gromwell      Aegonychon purpureocaeruleum

Native in chalk grassland in south-west Britain but only a rare introduction or garden escape in East Anglia. Flowers May to June. Grows to 50cm in height with creeping stems that can root at the nodes and form spreading patches. Flowers purplish in bud, opening blue.

Purple Gromwell Purple Gromwell Purple Gromwell Purple Gromwell
Habit
Flowers
Flower
Leaf


Oysterplant      Mertensia maritima

A native plant of coastal shingle, last recorded from East Anglia on Blakeney Point in 1910. Flowers June to August. Stems creeping to 60cm, the whole plant hairless, glaucous and slightly fleshy.

Oysterplant Oysterplant Oysterplant
Habit
Flowers
Leaves