Echium vulgare

Scientific Name:  Echium vulgareblueweed flowers and stem 
Common Names:  blueweed, viper's bugloss

History: Blueweed is part of the Boraginaceae or borage family, originated from southern Europe, and is a biennial or short lived perennial. It is believed that blueweed was first introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental and it can now be found throughout the country.

Roots: Blueweed has a long tap root with smaller root hairs that extend off of it. The tap root is typically black with a reddish cast and can be anywhere from 30.5 to 81cm (12 to 32 in.) in length. Blueweed can also regenerate from root fragments.

Stems and Leaves: The leaves of a blueweed plant start at the bottom in a ring called a basal rosette. These leaves are oblong and smooth edged growing from six to 22.5 cm (two to ten inches) in length. The stems are tall and straight growing up to 36 inches in height and each plant can have multiple stems.  Each stem is covered in small hairs that have a purple or reddish base giving the stems a spotted appearance. The leaves on the stem are also oblong and they alternate getting smaller towards the top.
Flowers: Blueweed has bright blue funnel or bell shaped flowers that range from one to two centimeters in size and can vary slightly in color. Each flower has five petals or lobes, and usually five stamens, which are pink to red in color and one is typically shorter than the rest. To flower, the plant needs to be exposed to colder temperatures before its first bloom of the season. Blueweed produces flowers from June to July and then again from August to October.

Seeds: The seeds are brownish gray and have a rounded pyramid shape. They are less than .10 inches in diameter and have a rough hard exterior that sticks well to clothing and animals. Each plant can produce 500 to 2000 seeds and they can remain viable in the soil for up to 36 months. Seeds are the main method of reproduction.

Environments Favorable For Infestation: Over grazed pastures, range land, and other disturbed areas are prime for the invasion of blueweed. Typically, blueweed will infest areas where there is no other, or very little, existing vegetation and where the soil is drier and sandier with little nutrients.

Economic and Environmental Impacts: Blueweed is toxic to cattle and horses in large amounts and is known to cause liver failure. It is also a host for plant diseases such as alfalfa mosaic virus, tobacco mosaic virus, and it is a secondary host for wheat rust. The stems and leaves are rough due to the hairs covering them and can cause skin irritations in humans.

Range: Blueweed infests 43 of the lower 48 states and is a listed noxious weed in Montana and Washington. As of 2015, infested Montana counties include: Cascade, Flathead, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Mineral, Missoula, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, Sweet Grass, and Treasure.


Prevention: Brush out coats of animals and wash the undercarriages of vehicles to  prevent the accidental spread of this weed by transportation of its seeds.

Mechanical: Digging and hand pulling are recommended for small patches and continuous mowing and clipping can be used for larger infestations.
Cultural: Proper management of lawns and pastures such as keeping native and desired plants healthy  and soil fertile. Re-vegetation of areas previously infested can also slow the spread of the weed as it does not do well in shaded or healthy areas. Using goats and sheep to graze is also an alternative control.

Biological: There are currently no insects approved to be used as a bio-control agent in the U.S.

Chemical:  A mixture of Escort and Telar used on the basal rosettes early in the spring was found to be 100% effective in controlling blueweed up to a year. 2,4-D LVE was also found to be effective in pastures along with crossbow (2,4-D and Triclopyr).
Other:  Prescribed burning is not effective because the weed doesn't burn well until it has been dried out for several days.


1."Biology, Ecology, and Management of Blueweed." Web. 7 Aug. 2015. <>.

2."Blueweed (Echium Vulgare)." Blueweed. Web. 7 Aug. 2015. <>.

3."Montana Weed Control Association." Montana Weed Control Association. Web. 7 Aug. 2015. <>.

4." - Home." Texas Invasives. Web. 7 Aug. 2015. <>.

 8/07/15 by: Alycia Loomis     Back to Home