Anchusa officinalis, the Common Bugloss originally came from the warmer regions of south-eastern Europe. Its seeds have adapted to be spread by ants, but throughout northern Europe the species arrived with human help. Long ago, its long black tap-roots were cultivated for use as a dye and for its medicinal properties. It established itself in village roadsides, yards and ruins.
Anchusa officinalis can be biennial or perennial in nature and can be grown in full sunlight or partially shaded conditions. The plants bear a basal rosette of lanceolate leaves the first year. In the following years, a large number of erect stems appear. They reach a height of around 60cm (24in), often the flowers have red tinges before turning deep sapphire blue and retain their colour for a long time.
Noted for its deep sapphire-blue flowers that are extremely attractive to wildlife, Anchusa is a relative of borage. The flowers that bloom from late spring right through until first frosts, are rich in nectar and pollen and much loved by almost all bee species. In the garden it can be used as part of wildlife friendly planting scheme or can be added to wildlife or wildflower gardens to bring its own brand of natural diversity.
Sowing: Sow direct in late spring to late summer.
Seed should be sown directly outdoors where it is to grow. They prefer well drained soil in full sun or part shade. Ideally they should be grown with a spacing of around 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12in), though they look quite attractive when grown in clumps.
The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seed bed and then transplanting the plants to their final positions during early autumn. These plants will grow larger and flower earlier than those sown in spring.
Sow direct into a weed free soil that is low in fertility. Prepare the area where they are to grow. Removing any weeds or stones and rake to a fine tilth. Sow thinly, 6mm (¼in) deep in drills 30cm (12in) apart. Sow the seed sparingly or they will choke out other seedlings. Water ground regularly until the seedlings are established, especially in dry periods. Seeds can be slow to germinate, the optimum temperature is 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C). An overnight drop in temperature often helps germination.
If sowing more than one annual in the same bed, consider marking the sowing areas with a ring of sand and a label. The seedlings will appear in rows approx 6 to 8 weeks after planting and can be easily told from nearby weed seedlings. Prick out superfluous seedlings rigorously, so that the plants are at least 30cm (12in) apart. They will then have enough space to spread satisfactorily.
Do not use fertiliser since they prefer poor soils. They can be maintained by self seeding and may require some weeding or thinning to keep in balance. In the garden this modest and annual flower will hardly make much of a nuisance of itself.
Anchusa officinalis is in flower from June to October, and the seeds ripen from July to October. Deadhead to prolong flowering and encourage new flower buds. Plants will reseed themselves if a few heads are left in the garden to mature. Leave a few plants to die down and to self seed or collect seed and store in a cool dry area ready for next year, others can be pulled up and composted.
All parts of the plant are softly hairy, as with Borage, with whom this plant is a family member. As the hairs on the stem may prove irritating to the skin be sure to wear gloves whenever handling Anchusa plants. The seeds are also hairy and have been known to stick to one's clothes.
Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildlife & wildflower meadows. Bees and Honey making. Butterfly gardens, Drought Tolerant.
As a Dye:
Anchusa plants have a long black tap-root. Alkanet root is primarily used as a natural dying agent, and it imparts a ruby red colour to natural fibres, wool, wood, stone, lip balm, lipstick, ointments, salve, soap, lotion, and to tint oils, vinegar, tinctures, varnishes, or wine.
In soap, Alkanet root will yield shades of pink, blue, and purple, depending upon the amount used, types of oil used, and the alkalinity of the soap. Note: For external use only.
The roots of Anchusa (just like those of Alkanna and Lithospermum) contain anchusin (or alkanet-red), a red-brown resinoid colouring matter. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol, chloroform and ether.
The Alkanet root imparts a fine deep-red colour to all unctuous substances. It was used for colouring oils, plasters, lip-salve, confections, etc and also in compositions for rubbing and giving colour to mahogany furniture. It was used to improve the appearance of low quality wines and ports, and to give an aged appearance to wine corks.
In the past, the plant was cultivated in Britain but most of the alkanet of commerce was imported from the Levant or from southern France. However, Alkanet root is mainly used as a dying agent now, and is not recommended for internal use.
In Magick the herb Alkanet was used as a purifying agent to help remove negative spirits from a particular area or object. Sprinkled around the foundation of a home to keep it protected and purified.
Anchusa officinalis has been long introduced into our gardens, it is native to the warmer regions of South-eastern Europe where it grows on sunny banks, waste ground, hedgerows, railway banks.
In Britain Anchusa officinalis has been grown in gardens since at least 1200 (Harvey, 1981), and was formerly also cultivated for fodder. It was first formally recorded in the wild in 1799.
The Anchusa genus contains around 40 species. They are diverse plants; they may be annual, biennial or perennial and can be either deciduous or evergreen. Some plants form mat like coverage, yet others grow upright. Although the genus seems to be large ranging they all share many common features: The plants carry numerous symmetrical five petaled flowers that are usually an intense sapphire blue colour and often tubular in nature (the Egyptian Alkanet is an exception having pale yellow flowers).
Some of the closely related species to Anchusa include Borage (Borago), Siberian bugloss (Brunnera), Forget me not (Myosotis) and Alkanet (Pentaglottis).
These genera of plants are members of the Boraginaceae family; this large family consists of around 2,000 species and is commonly referred to as the forget-me-not or Borage family.
Many of the species of Anchusa are commonly grown in gardens. There are also a number of cultivars available.
As a consequence of the plants variations in height the species plants can have many uses, smaller plants are often used in gaps between paving, whilst the larger species can be used towards the back of a border.
Some of the species that are commonly grown in gardens include:
Anchusa arvensis - Annual Bugloss
Anchusa officinalis - (Common) Bugloss, (True) Alkanet
Anchusa capensis - Summer Forget-Me-Not
Anchusa azurea - Italian Bugloss
Anchusa aegyptiaca - Egyptian Alkanet
Anchusa barrelieri - False Alkanet, Barrelier's Bugloss
Anchusa undulata - Undulate Alkanet
Anchusa is from the Latin name anchusa which was used for the common bugloss (Anchusa officinalis). It was used as a natural dye, a cosmetic or as an emollient to soothe and soften the skin.
When Linnaeus invented the binomial system of nomenclature, he gave the specific name 'officinalis' to plants (and sometimes animals) with an established medicinal, culinary, or other use. The word officinalis is derived from the Latin officina meaning a storeroom (of a monastery) for medicines and necessaries. It literally means 'of or belonging in an officina', and that it was officially recognised as a medicinal herb. It conjures up images of a storeroom where apothecaries and herbalists stored their herbs.
Common names include Dyer's Bugloss, Corn Bugloss, Garden Anchusa and True Alkanet.
The name bugloss is of Greek origin, from the word bouglōssos signifying an ox's tongue, (bous meaning ‘ox’ and glōssa meaning ‘tongue’) and alluding to the roughness and shape of the plant's leaves.
Linnaus, who gave the plant its modern scientific name, intentionally deviated from the former understanding.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 250mg Average Seed Count 60 seeds Seed Form Natural. Seeds per gram 240 seeds / gram Family Boraginaceae Genus Anchusa Species officinalis Synonym Buglossum angustifolium majus, Anchusa tinctoria, Common Name Dyer's Bugloss, True Alkanet, Bugloss
Wildflower of Europe
Other Common Names Corn Bugloss, Garden Anchusa Other Language Names IR. Boglas Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Intense blue Natural Flower Time April to September. Height 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Full sun preferred but will grow in shade. Soil Thrives on dryish mineral soil. Time to Sow Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn. Germination Optimum germination temperature: 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C). Uses bee plant,