These cheerful blues

Viper's Bugloss, Whitehill Wood.

Viper’s Bugloss, Whitehill Wood.

Currently flowering in a wood near us are the beautiful and dramatic Viper’s Bugloss. They rise above the ferns and brambles like bright pillars in brilliant blue with little hints of pink; this because the flowers start off pink turning to blue as they develop, leaving bright pink stamens. Once in bloom, the plant remains flowering for months. It is a native of most of Europe, but particularly favours chalky grassland, hence its presence here in Kent.

Viper's Bugloss, Whitehill Wood.

Viper’s Bugloss, Whitehill Wood.

The rather obscure name, which some assume comes from the resemblance of the pink stamens to snakes’ tongues, actually originates from the plant’s use as an anti- venom for bites from the spotted viper. However it does have a bite of its own, of sorts, and can irritate the skin if touched. Intriguingly the name is also shared with a moth, now thought to be extinct.

The flower is loved by insects of all kinds, but particularly bees and butterflies. It is also popular with gardeners because in the right location it grows easily and spreads rapidly; hence it is less popular with farmers.

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