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Vipers bugloss Echium vulgare

Echium vulgare (vipers bugloss) is a British native and is a member of the boraginaceae (borage or forget-me-not) family. It is a wonderful source of nectar for bees.

It flowers between May and September. The flowers start off pink then turn vivid blue and are 15 to 20 mm in a branched spike, with all the stamens protruding. The pollen is blue but the filaments of the stamens remain red, contrasting against the blue flowers. The flowers continue to produce nectar throughout the day so bees are able to feed right into the late afternoon and evening when other flowers have dried up.

E. vulgare is also grown as an oilseed crop because of the fatty acid composition of the seed oil. Like borage and evening primrose oil, it contains significant amounts of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), but it also contains the rarer stearidonic acid (SdA).

This species prefers a well-drained chalky soil and is often seen on chalk and limestone downs, mostly on grassy and undisturbed land by the coast on cliffs, sand dunes and shingle.

In recent years it has declined somewhat in frequency, due to agricultural intensification, reclamation and the development of neglected ground.

Echium vulgare is the County Flower of East Lothian.

You can adopt a seed from this species for £250. Your donation will be used towards the work of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, ensuring this species is kept safe in the vaults forever, and to collect more species in the future.

In addition to receiving your adoption pack featuring your certificate and photograph of the species (this will be posted to you, or the recipient), you will be invited to the County Flower sponsor's event at the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst where you can meet the staff and see the vaults where your species is stored.

If you have any questions, please contact Jill Taylor on 020 8332 3248 or email j.taylor@kew.org.

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