Anchusa azurea - Large Blue Alkanet

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: insertae sedis - Family: Boraginaceae

Anchusa azurea - Large Blue Alkanet

Identification

This bristly perennial grows to a height of 0.7m and has a upright, sparsely-branching nature with lanceolate leaves and blue shallowly-tubular five-petalled flowers. When the flower buds first appear they are pink or purple and coiled, opening and changing colour gradually to a deep ultramarine.

Distribution

This startlingly blue wildflower can be found throughout the Mediterranean region. Its natural range extends northwards to central mainland Europe and eastwards into western Asia. Elsewhere, including southern Britain and Ireland, Large Blue Alkanet is an introduced alien species appearing in the wild as a garden escape.

Anchusa azurea in southern Portugal

Habitat

Large Blue Alkanet favours dry sunny locations and is seen most often on roadside verges, in abandoned fields and on disturbed wasteland; it is also quite a common sight in cultivated olive groves.

Blooming times

In southern Europe, Anchusa azurea can be seen in flower from March until June.

Similar species

Borage Borago ifficinalis, which is cultivated in herb gardens in Britain and Ireland and used as an attractive addition to the fruit cup Pimms, is a close relative of this lovely wildflower.

The taxonomic position of wildflowers in the family Boraginaceae, which includes the alkanets, forget-me-knots and of course Borage itself, is still not determined. Some people place these flowers in the order Lamiales, while others have designated them as Boraginales. We, like many, simply mark the whole family as Insertae sedis - position yet to be decided.

The specimens shown here were seen in the Algarve region of southern Portugal during May.


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