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Herb of the Month - Vipers Bugloss

This time of year is all about those blooming flowers, when all your gardening seems to pay off. One of the most satisfyingly beautiful plants you can grow, our herb of the month is Vipers Bugloss.

Echium vulgare, also known as Vipers Bugloss, Adderwort, or Blue Devil, is characterised by its cylindrical spikes of gorgeous bell shaped flowers. From the Boraginaceae family, Vipers Bugloss will take 1-2 years to reach its maximum height, up to 75cm tall – all of which will be covered in flowers when it blooms in early summer. Each flower on the column will itself be 1 to 2cm in length. It originates in Europe and grows best in dry grassland or dunes, preferring sand or chalk soils. Whilst it is slightly fussy about soil, Vipers Bugloss will grow in either exposed or sheltered areas and in varying amounts of sunlight.

This is a fantastic plant to have in your garden if you want to attract bees or butterflies – both of which love the colourful flowers come summer. In the language of flowers, Vipers Bugloss represents falsehood or untruthfulness, most likely due to its snakelike appearance (as described in its alternative name, Snake Flower). The name ‘Bugloss’ is also derived from the appearance of the plant – this time its leaves. The term comes from the Greek word bou, meaning cow or ox, and the Latin glosso, meaning tongue. The leaves of the Vipers Bugloss could be said to resemble an ox-tongue in shape. Though it was once used as an anti-venom for snake bites, it is best to avoid touching it as it can cause irritation to the skin and will cause stomach upset if ingested.

Whilst it’s not always possible to grow in your garden (if you don’t have chalky soil or have kids who might take a bite!), it’s always worth keeping an eye out when you walk along the dunes, as this really is a stunning plant.

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