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: Before blooming, the flowers are initially reddish and can be found in coiled clusters at the end of stems, which resemble fiddlenecks. After blooming, the flowers range from bright blue to purple and have distinctive white throats. They are five-lobed and have an un-curved, tubular shape.
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 to the touch. The basal leves are lance-shaped while the upper leaves become smaller towards the top of the stem, and are clasping and stalkless.
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 that can be 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 that are found on the flowers of Common Bugloss.
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. The medicinal properties and practical use of this species as a dye most likely contributed to the expansion of 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. This species 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, of which can remain viable in the soil for several years. 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 it is transported to a new location. The seeds are easily dispersed by animals and wind, 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
- Forms large, dense stands that compete with native and more desirable vegetation.
- Invades fields and pastures.
- 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 the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
What Can I Do?
Common Bugloss is currently found in Squamish and Pemberton but NOT in Whistler, so the best approach to controlling its spread is by PREVENTION.
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 provide competition to any Common Bugloss plant.
- 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 will be able to persist the composting process.
- Move soil, gravel, or fill material that has been contaminated with Common Bugloss.
Small infestations can be dug out using a pick or a shovel, but ensure that 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 prior to blooming has proven effective, as well as spraying a broadleaf herbicide such as 2, 4-D or 2, 4-D + dicamba during the rosette stage. The addition of 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.
- E-Flora BC, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Anchusa%20officinalis
- Go Botany, https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/anchusa/officinalis/
- Invasive Species Council of BC, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasive-species/identify/invasive-plants/common-bugloss
- Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society, https://lriss.ca/species/common-bugloss
- Lincoln County Noxious Weed Control Board, https://www.co.lincoln.wa.us/weedboard/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/COMMON-BUGLOSS-BROCHURE.pdf
- Oregon Department of Agriculture, https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/shared/Documents/Publications/Weeds/CommonBuglossProfile.pdf
- Spokane Country Noxious Weed Control Board, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/images/weeds/Common-Bugloss_Spokane.pdf