From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Natternkopf oe.jpg
Echium vulgare
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Boraginales
Family: Boraginaceae
Subfamily: Boraginoideae
Genus: Echium

See text

Flowers of Echium hierrense, a species that is native to the Canary Islands.

Echium /ˈɛkiəm/[1] is a genus of 60 species of flowering plant in the family Boraginaceae.

The type species is Echium vulgare (viper's bugloss). Species of Echium are native to North Africa, mainland Europe and the Macaronesian islands where it reaches its maximum diversity.[2]


The Latin genus name comes from the Greek word 'ekhis' which means viper (a type of snake). Some sources say that this is due to the seeds resembling a viper' head. Others claim that the forking at the end of the thin flower style resembles a viper's tongue. It is also claimed that the plant roots when eaten with wine could provide a folk cure for a snake bite.[3]


Many species are used as ornamental and garden plants and may be found in suitable climates throughout the world. In Crete Echium italicum is called pateroi (πάτεροι) or voidoglosses (βοϊδόγλωσσες) and its tender shoots are eaten boiled or steamed.[4]

Echium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Coleophora onosmella and orange swift.

The seed oil from Echium plantagineum contains high levels of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid (SDA), making it valuable in cosmetic and skin care applications, with further potential as a functional food, as an alternative to fish oils.[5]


Some species have become invasive in southern Africa, California and Australia. For example, Echium plantagineum (Patterson's Curse), has become a major invasive species in Australia.



  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ Böhle, U.-R., Hilger, H.H. & Martin, W.F. 2001. Island colonization and evolution of the insular woody habit in Echium L. (Boraginaceae). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93:11740-11745.
  3. ^ W. T. Parsons, William Thomas Parsons and E. G. Cuthbertson Noxious Weeds of Australia, p. 325, at Google Books
  4. ^ Kleonikos G. Stavridakis , Κλεόνικος Γ. Σταυριδάκης (2006). Wild edible plants of Crete - Η Άγρια βρώσιμη χλωρίδα της Κρήτης. Rethymnon Crete. ISBN 960-631-179-1.
  5. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre. NNFCC Crop Factsheet: Echium