Viper’s Bugloss, Blue Devil
General: Blueweed is a biennial taprooted plant that produces a rosette during its first year of growth and bright blue flowers during its second year of growth.
Flowers: Numerous bright blue flowers that are five-lobed, 10-20 mm long, slightly funnel-shaped, and arranged on the upper side of arching stems. The flower bulbs are reddish purple before flowering occurs.
Stems: Erect and covered with a combination of short hairs and scattered, long, stiff hairs which irritate the skin. Long hairs have dark, swollen bases that produce noticeable flecks. Stems are 30 – 80 cm tall.
Leaves: Lance-shaped, covered with stiff hairs, and arranged in a rosette during the first year of growth. The basal leaves are stalked and tend to be larger, while leaves near the top of the plant are smaller in size and are stalkless.
Seeds: Seeds are greyish-brown, about 3 mm long, and clustered together in groups of four, with a rough texture and wrinkly appearance. They resemble a viper head in shape, hence the plant’s alternate name of Viper’s Bugloss.
Roots: Blueweed has long, stout, black taproots with smaller lateral roots.
Arctic Lupine (Lupinus arcticus) can be found throughout the Sea to Sky. Unlike Blueweed, it has whorled, pea-like flowers and lacks noticeable black specks on the stem of the plant.
Common Bugloss (Anchusa officinalis) is another invasive species found in Squamish and Pemberton. Unlike Blueweed, the flowers of this species have distinctive white throats.
Habitat and Origin
Blueweed is native to Europe and the reason for its introduction to North America remains unknown. It was first reported in Canada in 1862 and is still sold as a garden ornamental. It is found throughout Southern BC and other Canadian provinces and is classified as a noxious weed in some regions.
Blueweed invades roadsides, drainage ditches, right-of-ways, fencelines, gravel pits, pastures, rangelands, and other disturbed areas. It prefers warm, southern aspects and is intolerant to shade. While Blueweed can grow in various soil types and pH, it requires well-drained soils, even if those soils are nutritionally poor.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Blueweed reproduces by seed. Each plant can produce up to 2,800 seeds per season, which remain viable in the soil for 5 to 10 years. Wildlife, humans, and equipment spread the seeds to new regions. The rough exterior of Blueweed seeds enables them to cling to fur, feathers, clothing, and hair. The wind can also disperse dead flower stalks that break off, and seeds can float and disperse by water.
The continued sale of Blueweed as a garden ornamental contributes to the spread of this species.
Ecological, Economic, & Health Impacts
- The stiff hairs that cover the stems of Blueweed are prickly and can cause skin irritation.
- Ingesting Blueweed could be toxic to animals due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
- Blueweed is unpalatable to grazing animals and wildlife
- Can outcompete native species for resources and habitat.
- Replaces forage crops by invading pastures and rangelands.
- Blueweed seeds may contaminate clover and other crop seeds.
- It can be a host for plant viruses.
What Can I Do?
Blueweed is abundant in certain portions of the Sea to Sky region (i.e., Squamish and Pemberton) but has not yet infested all potential habitats. The goal is to contain the spread of Blueweed to Squamish and Pemberton (ISMAs 1 and 3).
Learn to identify Blueweed: Use the images on this profile page to learn how to identify Blueweed.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Blueweed sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Minimize soil disturbances and promptly revegetate disturbed areas to prevent the growth of Blueweed.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Blueweed.
- Ensure all flowering heads or buds are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites.
- Unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Plant Blueweed in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Compost any flowering heads or buds. Instead, dispose of Blueweed in the general/household waste stream at the landfill, as the seeds can survive the composting process.
- Move soil, gravel, or fill that has been contaminated with Blueweed.
- Repeated hand-pulling or digging can be an effective way to control small infestations.
- This is best done when the plants are still in the rosette stage and the soil is moist.
- If roots cannot be removed, cutting and mowing infested areas before the production of seeds will help to decrease the seed production, but will not kill the plants.
- Ensure that any flowering heads or buds are bagged to prevent further spread.
- Wear gloves and long-sleeved clothing to prevent irritation from the stiff, prickly hairs.
- Cutting or mowing larger infestations before the plants go to seed can help decrease future seed production and deplete root reserves, but won’t kill the plants.
Spring to mid-summer applications of herbicides including 2,4-D, triclopyr, glyphosate, and metsulfuron-methyl provide control.
We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
There are currently no known biocontrol agents for Blueweed.
- Alberta Invasive Species Council, Blueweed, https://abinvasives.ca/fact-sheet/blueweed/
- Alberta Invasive Species Council, Blueweed Factsheet, https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/yjc.cc8.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/N_FS-Blueweed.pdf?time=1622262965
- BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Best Practices for Managing Invasive Plants on Roadsides, https://prrd.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ManagingInvasivePlants.pdf
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC, Echium vulgare, https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Echium%20vulgare
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC, Lupinus arcticus, https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Lupinus%20arcticus
- Government of Alberta, Blueweed, https://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/app107/loadPest?action=display&id=21
- Government of BC, Blueweed (excerpt from A Guide to Weeds in British Columbia), https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/alerts/blueweed.pdf
- Government of BC, Field Guide of Noxious Weeds and Invasive Plants in BC, https://bcinvasives.ca/documents/Field_Guide_to_Noxious_Weeds_Final_WEB_09-25-2014.pdf
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Blueweed, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/blueweed/
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Blueweed Factsheet, https://bcinvasives.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Blueweed_Factsheet_26032019.pdf
- University of California Davis, Blueweed (sometimes called vipers bugloss) (excerpt from the Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States), https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_E/Echium_vulgare.pdf