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Borage

Borago officinalis

  • Name also: Starflower
  • Family: Borage Family – Boraginaceae
  • Growing form: Annual herb.
  • Height: 15–60 cm (6–25 in.). Stem usually branched, densely hairy.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 15–25 mm (0.6–1 in.) wide. Corolla blue, occasionally white, fused, wheel-shaped, 5-lobed, lobes tapered. Five white protuberances in corolla mouth. Calyx fused, deeply 5-lobed, lobes narrow, tapered. Stamens 5, in an impressive stack. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence a scorpioid cyme.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Basal leaves stalked, uppermost amplexicaul . Blade elliptic–ovate, entire, quite fleshy, hairy.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Mericarps like achenes, with wrinkled surfaces.
  • Habitat: Yards, gardens, fields, wasteland, dumps. Ornamental and cultivated plant, sometimes an escape and leftover from cultivation.
  • Flowering time: June–August.

Borage is a fast-growing annual which is pleasantly fuzzy-haired all over. It is native to the western Mediterranean areas, but it has spread to culturally influenced places across virtually the whole of Europe. It only grows in the wild in Finland as a casual weed or an escape from cultivation. Borage is an old medicinal plant which thrives in the Finnish climate. Its flowers and flowering stems are used fresh and dried to e.g. treat fever, anxiety and depression, as a diuretic and for women’s troubles. Borage is also surrounded by more mystical claims: a tea of the tincture is believed to increase spiritual power and simply carrying the flowers in one’s navel will apparently increase courage and keep evil spirits at bay! Fresh young leaves taste like cucumber and can be used in salads and soups, and bigger ones can be stuffed. The leaves have spiny hairs so it is recommended to cut them quite small or dip them in boiling water to soften their fur. Borage contains a certain amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can be harmful for the liver, so for that reason borage preparations can only be bought from a pharmacy. Neither should gardeners use borage regularly or in excessive amounts. Borage is an excellent nectar plant, and its flowers are always swarming with bees.

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