Alkanet, Common Anchusa
General: A biennial or perennial herbaceous flowering plant that forms a rosette of basal leaves during its first year of growth and produces flowering stalks during its second year of growth.
Flowers: Bright blue to purple un-curved, tubular flowers with 5 tooth-shaped petals. The flowers are initially reddish and found in coiled clusters at the end of stems, and as the flowers open, the coil unfolds.
Stems: The stems are 30 – 80 cm and coarsely hairy. There are often several stems per plant.
Leaves: Common Bugloss has succulent leaves with linear edges that feel fleshy and hairy. The basal leaves are lance-shaped, while the upper leaves become smaller towards the top of the stem and are clasping and stalkless. Leaves are generally 6 – 20cm long and 1 – 2.5 cm wide.
Fruit: Each flower produces four nutlets that are clustered together, with each nutlet containing one seed.
Roots: Has a long, deep, woody taproot. The roots of Common Bugloss produce a purplish dye.
Blueweed (Echium vulgare) is another invasive species found in the Sea to Sky region that resembles Common Bugloss. However, the stems of Blueweed have dark flecks that are the bases of short, stiff hairs. In addition, Blueweed flowers lack the distinctive white throats found on the Common Bugloss flowers.
European or Small Bugloss (Anchusa arvensis) has curved tubular flowers and basal leaves with crinkled, wavy edges.
Habitat and Origin
Native to the Mediterranean region, Common Bugloss was introduced to North America from Europe. It became naturalized throughout Europe during medieval times from garden cultivation. This species’ medicinal properties and practical use as a dye most likely contributed to expanding its distribution in Europe.
Common Bugloss generally prefers habitats with high sun exposure and low soil moisture, such as roadsides, cultivated fields, pastures, alfalfa fields, and rangelands. It also tends to thrive in disturbed sites and waste areas where plant competition is low.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Common Bugloss propagates primarily by seed, but will also propagate vegetatively by root fragments. One plant can produce up to 900 seeds annually, and seeds can remain viable in the soil for several years. In fact, approximately 90% of Common Bugloss seeds will remain viable after three years, allowing for many opportunities for dispersal.
Common Bugloss can be introduced to new regions when its seeds or root fragments are present in contaminated hay, soil, gravel, or fill material when transported to a new location. Animals and wind easily disperse the seeds, and flowering stalks of the plant may break off and be blown to a new area. In addition, people may spread seeds via equipment, footwear, vehicles, and clothing.
Ecological, Economic, & Health Impacts
- Invades fields and pastures and forms large, dense stands that compete with native and more desirable vegetation.
- Reduces biodiversity.
- Reduces the yield of crops, pastures, and haylands.
- Causes spoilage in baled hay due to its succulent leaves.
- Is toxic if ingested by humans or livestock due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
What Can I Do?
Common Bugloss is found in the Sea to Sky region, but with a limited distribution. The goal is to eradicate this species from the region, and to prevent new introductions.
Learn to identify Common Bugloss: Use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Common Bugloss.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Common Bugloss sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil, gravel, and fill material are uncontaminated before transport.
- Minimize soil disturbances (e.g. use grazing plans that prevent soil exposure from overgrazing), and use seed mixes with dense, early colonization to revegetate exposed soil and resist invasion.
- Maintain a strong population of native perennials to compete with any Common Bugloss plants.
- Ensure all plant parts 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 Common Bugloss in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Compost any plant material. Instead, dispose of Common Bugloss in the general/household waste stream at the landfill, as the seeds are likely to survive the composting process.
- Move soil, gravel, or fill material contaminated with Common Bugloss.
- Small infestations can be dug out using a pick or a shovel, but ensure the taproot is cut below the root crown. However, this may prove difficult due to Common Bugloss’ large, woody taproot.
- Cutting and mowing large infestations before the plants flower can help deplete seed production, but regrowth will still occur from the taproot.
- Spot spraying Common Bugloss with glyphosate before it blooms has proven effective; so has spraying a broadleaf herbicide such as 2, 4-D or 2, 4-D + dicamba during the rosette stage.
- Adding a surfactant to a spray mix is a must to increase coverage and penetrate the hairy leaves. As the plant grows, a higher rate of herbicide will be required.
- All herbicide applications should be monitored over successive years as follow-up treatments may be required, and to evaluate the efficacy of the chemical control method.
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 is no biocontrol available for Common Bugloss.
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of BC, Anchusa officinalis, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Anchusa%20officinalisI
- nvasive Plant Atlas of the United States, Common Bugloss, https://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=5113
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Common Bugloss, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasive-species/identify/invasive-plants/common-bugloss
- King County Weed Control Board, Common bugloss identification and control, https://kingcounty.gov/en/legacy/services/environment/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/common-bugloss.aspx
- Lillooet Invasive Species Society, Common Bugloss, https://lriss.ca/species/common-bugloss
- Lincoln County Weed Control Board, Common & Annual Bugloss: Options for control, https://www.co.lincoln.wa.us/weedboard/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/COMMON-BUGLOSS-BROCHURE.pdf
- Nature Gate, Alkanet (Anchusa officinalis), http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/alkanet
- Oregon Department of Agriculture, Common Bugloss Profile, https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/Weeds/CommonBuglossProfile.pdf
- United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Anchusa officinalis l., https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ANOF
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Common Bugloss Noxious Weed Fact Sheet, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/images/weeds/Common-Bugloss_Spokane.pdf
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Common Bugloss, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/common-bugloss