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Small Bugloss

Anchusa arvensis

  • Name also: Annual Bugloss
  • Family: Borage Family – Boraginaceae
  • Growing form: Annual herb. Taproot short, straight.
  • Height: 15–40 cm (6–16 in.). Stem roundish–bristly, rough-haired, upper part usually branched.
  • Flower: Corolla wheel-shaped–campanulate (bell-shaped), slightly zygomorphic, 4–6 mm wide, light blue, fused, 5-lobed. Calyx-tube same length as calyx, curved, large white protuberances in throat. Calyx 5-lobed from base, densely hairy. Calyx lobes tapered, sharp-tipped. Stamens 5. Gynoecium fused, single-styled. Inflorescence initially dense, later extending into a 1-branched scorpioid cyme, all flowers with subtending bracts.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Basal leaves stalked, stalks winged, stem leaves stalkless, widely attached. Blade elongated–lanceolate–ovate, shallowly toothed, with crinkled margins, both sides hairy.
  • Fruit: 4-parted schizocarp. Mericarps elliptic, short-tapered, brown, with granular surface, approx. 3 mm long.
  • Habitat: Grain fields, gardens, roadsides, waste ground, harbours.
  • Flowering time: June–August.

Small bugloss is a weed that has spread with people and agriculture from its original habitat around the Black Sea to the west and finally also to northern Finland. Its comparatively large carpels adapted to being spread by ants, but they also travel well with unclean grain. In Finland the species can be found just as easily in grain, potato and fallow fields, and nowadays in gardens and railway yards, beside roads and on waste ground. Small bugloss isn’t fussy when it comes to habitat, but it seems to thrive best in dryish mineral soil. It started life in Finland in densely populated agricultural communities, and has been characterized as a companion of old culture. It has clearly become rarer today, apparently as a consequence of the rise of intensive agriculture methods. Many former habitats probably still contain small bugloss’s rock-hard seeds, patiently waiting for favourable conditions to sprout. Ploughing up the land can awaken the sleeping seeds, and soon flowering small bugloss appears, just like old times. It is recommended to leave small bugloss that appears in the vegetable garden or flower bed or on the lawn in peace: the modest and annual weed will hardly make much of a nuisance of itself; on the other hand it adds its own brand of natural diversity and has a story to tell about human history in Finland.

Small bugloss can be differentiated from its close relative common bugloss (A. officinalis) by its usually gently curved corolla and smaller whitish blue flowers, and from the forget-me-nots (Myosotis) by its shallowly toothed leaves and its inflorescence’s subtending bracts.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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