Members of the Boraginaceae family are generally herbs, often covered with bristly hairs. The flowers are radially symmetrical, often borne along one side of branches or at the tip of the stem, in a spirally coiled inflorescence that unwinds as the flowers mature. There are 5 sepals, united at the base into a calyx, 5 petals, united into a corolla, which consists of a narrow tube and an abruptly flared top, called the limb. The flowers have 5 stamens and 1 style. There are often small appendages (fornices) on the insides of the petals near the point where the tube and limb join. All these parts are attached near the base of the ovary. The leaves are simple, usually alternate and bristly-hairy. The fruit is usually a dry capsule that separates into 4 hard, seed-like sections (nutlets). In a few species the fruit is a berry. The family has about 100 genera and 2,000 species worldwide and is well developed in Western U.S., especially in drier habitats.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Borage Family
Asperugo procumbens Madwort Stems weak, scrambling, 4-angled, with backward prickles. Flowers blue, in leaf axils and forks of branches, 2-3 mm long and wide. Leaves thin, spoon-shaped, rough-stiff-hairy and bristly-hairy on the edges. Disturbed ground.
FLOWERS BLUE, OPENING WIDE. STEMS FLAT-HAIRY
Myosotis Forget-me-not Plants with mostly flat, short hairs, 5-60 cm tall. Flowers blue, 1-10 mm wide, with 5 spreading rounded lobes and fornices. Leaves alternate, mostly lance- to spoon-shaped, tapered to the stalks. Moist to dry habitats.
FLOWERS BLUE, FUNNEL- OR BELL-SHAPED
Mertensia Bluebells Plants with mostly flat, short hairs, 5-100 cm tall. Flowers blue, nodding, with well defined tube and mostly funnel-shaped limb. Leaves alternate, elliptic to egg-shaped, with tapered bases. Moist to dry habitats.
FLOWERS WHITE. FRUITS NOT BRISTLY
Buglossoides arvensis Corn Gromwell Stems 10-70 cm tall, short-stiff-hairy. Flowers white, 5-8 mm long, 2-4 mm wide, without "eye", from upper leaf axils. Leaves alternate, numerous, narrow, 1.5-6 cm long. Fields, roadsides, disturbed sites.
FLOWERS WHITISH. FRUITS WITH BARBED BRISTLES
Lappula Stickseed Stems simple or branched, 5-60 cm tall, short-stiff-hairy. Flowers light blue, 4-6 mm long and 1.5-4 mm wide, with yellow eye. Leaves up to about 6 cm long and 1 cm wide, stiff-hairy, reduced upward. Dry to moist areas.
Lithospermum Gromwell Stems 5-60 cm tall, with flat, stiff, short hairs. Flowers bright yellow, 8-30 mm long, 1-1.5 cm wide, crowded or separate. Leaves mostly on the upper stem, 2-10 cm long and 2-10 mm wide. Dry, open plains and foothills.
FLOWERS REDDISH-PURPLE. TALL, COARSE PLANTS
Cynoglossum officinale Hounds-tongue Coarse, softly long-hairy plant, 30-80 cm tall. Flowers reddish-purple, numerous on many long, 1-sided, spreading branches. Leaves alternate, elliptic to lance-shaped. A weed in disturbed sites.
Symphytum officinale Comfrey Robust, stiff-hairy plant, 30-120 cm tall, stems clustered. Flowers purple or dull blue, nodding, about 15 mm long, narrowly bell-shaped. Leaves large, up to 30 cm long, the bases extended down the stem. Disturbed sites.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Borage family: