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Heliotropium peruvianum.jpg
Heliotropium arborescens
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Boraginales
Family: Boraginaceae
Subfamily: Heliotropioideae
Genus: Heliotropium
Type species
Heliotropium europaeum
L. [1]

250-300, see text


Beruniella Zakirov & Nabiev
Bourjotia Pomel
Bucanion Steven
Cochranea Miers
Euploca Nutt.
Lithococca Small ex Rydb.
Meladendron Molina
Parabouchetia Baill.
Valentina Speg.[2]

Heliotropium /ˌhliəˈtrpiəm, -li-/[3] is a genus of flowering plants in the borage family, Boraginaceae. There are 250 to 300 species in this genus, which are commonly known as heliotropes (sg. /ˈhiːli.ətroʊp/[clarification needed]).


The name "heliotrope" derives from the old idea that the inflorescences of these plants turned their rows of flowers to the sun.[4] Ἥλιος (helios) is Greek for "sun", τρέπειν (trepein) means "to turn". The Middle English name "turnsole" has the same meaning.

Ecology and human use[edit]

Grey leaf heliotrope Heliotropium ovalifolium at Pocharam lake, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Several heliotropes are popular garden plants, most notably garden heliotrope (H. arborescens). Some species are weeds, and many are hepatotoxic if eaten in large quantities due to abundant pyrrolizidine alkaloids. There have been cases of canine death due to over-ingestion of this toxic plant. [5] Some danaine butterflies, such as male queen butterflies, visit these plants, being attracted to their pyrrolizidine alkaloids [6] Though it is not palatable and most animals will completely ignore it, there have been cases of horses, swine and cattle being poisoned due to contamination of hay.[7]

Caterpillars of the grass jewel (Freyeria trochylus), a gossamer-winged butterfly, feed on H. strigosum.[citation needed]

The sap of heliotrope flowers, namely of European heliotrope (H. europaeum), was used as a food coloring in Middle Ages and Early Modern French cuisine.[citation needed]

One of the most famous ragtime piano melodies is "Heliotrope Bouquet", composed in 1907 by Louis Chauvin (the first two strains) and Scott Joplin (the last two strains).

Garden heliotrope is grown in Southern Europe as an ingredient for perfume.[8]

The purplish facial rash of dermatomyositis is called "heliotrope rash" because it resembles E. arborescens.[9]

Selected species[edit]

Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum
European heliotrope (Heliotropium europaeum)
Indian turnsole (Heliotropium indicum) inflorescence

Formerly included here[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Heliotropium L". TROPICOS. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  2. ^ "Genus: Heliotropium L". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2006-04-02. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  4. ^ Chittenden, Fred J. Ed., Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Oxford 1951
  5. ^ http://www.limerickvet.com/news-info/pet-news/in-remembrance-of-goldie/
  6. ^ Male sex pheromone of a giant danaine butterfly, Idea leuconoe
  7. ^ Witherill, Richard. "Heliotrope". PAWS Dog Daycare. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Floridata: Heliotropium arborsecens
  9. ^ http://www.dermnetnz.org/immune/dermatomyositis.html
  10. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Heliotropium". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  • Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L.; Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 0-89672-614-2. 

External links[edit]