20 February, 2011

Vipers Bugloss -- Who was Salvation Jane ?

"Vipers Bugloss" is a weird name for a plant.   But that's the one we use commonly.  It's botanic name is "Echium Vulgare".   On this property it grows well and colonises any disturbed ground.  While most other things struggle to grow at all in our dry stones, the Vipers Bugloss can be quite impressive.
Anywhere the ground is disturbed.  We get a good crop of Vipers Bugloss.
It seems "Bugloss" just means "Plant" or in particular a group of blue plants.  "Vipers" refers to it's supposed use as a remedy for snakebite.

Fortunately we don't have any snakes on these islands.
Huge:   Well over a meter in just a month or three.
Vipers Bugloss has a large taproot which goes down very deep allowing it to grow in dry infertile places.    Originally introduced for cattle feed and for garden decoration.  While very edible when young these plants become prickly and unpleasant to handle as they get bigger.

There is also a trade in the honey gathered and a local producer, Airbourne Honey, gathers and supplies it.  Look at
You can see the attraction for the bees.
Some places the whole landscape turns blue with blossom before Christmas as we turn from spring into the heat of the southern summer.
A good addition to the view.   Olive trees behind.
Vipers Bugloss is a native of Europe and Asia.  Where it has been introduced in the USA, and Australia it has spread and is regarded as a pest.

"Echium plantagineum", another well known honey plant from Australia is a close relative.  In Victoria it is called "Paterson's Curse" after the unfortunate family who made the mistake of introducing it.  In the state of South Australia however it is called "Salvation Jane".  Why ?  Who was Jane ?  What was her story ?


  1. There is a tendency to plant this 'thing' in lieu of Delphinium in sandy/coastal or generally windy areas. It works rather well with Mallow 'LAVATERA'.

  2. This is my most frightening invasive alien in our garden. If you try to tackle it, your arms are ripped to bloody shreds. And abandoned fields are completely covered in unbroken swathes of Pretty in Blue

    Paterson's Curse in South Africa

    1. I've republished my post

  3. Here it covers any disturbed ground remorselessly. But seems to struggle where there is completing longer grass. You can see that in other post photos where there is none to be seen in wide areas of the field. The field here is not that usual in that the natural state is protected. It is not mown, there is no stock and the rabbits are kept out.

  4. a lovely plant that reeks such havoc...our bugloss is so very different and dainty...

  5. Delighted to hear it. I forget you are a good scelp south.

  6. What an incredible landscape and photos! Thrilled to have discovered your blog and look forward to following along!

  7. Nobody came up with an explanation about the name. 'Salvation Jane'. What was her story ?

  8. From the Greek, Kerry,
    bouglōssos "ox-tongued", from bous "ox" + glōssa "tongue" Do you see anything ox tongue-like about it?

    The name Salvation Jane comes from when in drought it was the only plant to remain providing life saving food for livestock. The term Salvation Jane was probably given due to Australians' love of rhyming nicknames.

    In the 1800s, Alfred A.Patterson was a Swedish engineer who worked at a power plant His avocation was botany and he noticed that farmers were importing bugloss for animal feed. He predicted that it would become hard to control once introduced, which was obviously disregarded.

    Better get used to it, I'd say. At least cattle will always have feed where it grows.

  9. I love all blue flowers! Just cannot resist buying ny I see when I go to the nursery. This one looks lovely, inspite of its spiky steams and leaves. I think we have something similar growing wild in SA, too. I will have to keep an eye out for it and get up close to photograph it and compare it with yours.

    I've JUST spotted Elephant's Eye's comment alongside as I'm typing this...I see the author is also a South African! And, my theory has clearly been answered!!

    Small world! :)

  10. Where I live (Portugal) the fields gain an amazing color with this species. I must confess that I find them more pleasant than flowers in yellow hue. Sometimes it is possible to watch a weird viper's growing up. I don't know if is the same plant in a mutation form or another plant itself. I have a picture publish in my tumblr blog at this url:


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