Fact Sheets


Echium plantagineum L.

Family :

Famille :


Synonym(s) :

Synonyme(s) :

Echium lycopsis auct. (USDA-ARS 2021)

Common Name(s) :

Nom(s) commun(s) :

Paterson’s curse
(English) (GC 2016)

Vipérine à feuilles de plantain (French) (GC 2016)

Salvation Jane (English) (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992)

Blue weed (English) (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992)

Lady Campbell weed (English) (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992)

Purple bugloss (English) (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992)

  • Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) nutlets

  • Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) nutlets

  • Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) nutlet, inner side

  • Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) nutlet, side view

  • Paterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum) nutlet, outer side

  • Echium plantagineum (Paterson’s curse) nutlets usually in groups of four

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Regulation :

Remarques Réglementation:

  • CFIA Weed Seeds Order - Class 1: Prohibited Noxious Weed Seeds
  • List of Pests Regulated by Canada

Regulation Notes:

Prohibited Noxious, Class 1 in the Canadian Weed Seeds Order (2016) under the Seeds Act. All imported and domestic seed must be free of Prohibited Noxious weed seeds.


Distribution :

Répartition :

Broad Mediterranean native distribution (CABI 2021). Introduced to Australia, New Zealand, eastern and southern Africa, southern South America, and the western United States (CABI 2021). There have been several records from Canada but it has not persisted (Brouillet et al. 2010+).

Habitat and Crop Association :

Habitat et Cultures Associées :

Pastures, roadsides and disturbed areas (CABI 2021). Carries over as a weed in cereals and other crops when in rotation with annual pastures (CABI 2021).

Economic Use, cultivation area, and Weed Association :

Utilisation économique, zone de culture et association de mauvaises herbes :

Duration of Life Cycle :

Durée du cycle vital:

Annual or biennial

Dispersal Unit Type :

Type d’unité de dispersion :


General Information


Echium plantagineum was introduced into Australia in the 1880s, where it proved to be an aggressive, drought-tolerant, herbicide-resistant and toxic weed (Kloot 1982). The plants contain toxic chemicals that can cause liver damage in pigs and horses (Culvenor 1956).


Echium plantagineum infestation (Lesley Ingram, Bugwood.org)



  • Nutlet


    • Nutlet length*: 2.8 – 4.2 mm; width: 1.8 – 3.0 mm
    *Note: minimum and maximum of 20 nutlets in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)


    • Teardrop-shaped nutlet with one flat end and one abruptly pointed end
    • Nutlet is slightly trigonous in 3 dimensions

    Surface Texture

    • Nutlet is densely covered in small irregular and spiny tubercles with a central longitudinal ridge


    • Colour of nutlet is generally shiny white or light grey, but some are light brown
    • The surface between the tubercles is generally whitish but can be grey or brown coloured

    Other Features

    • The surface of the flat end is smooth and dull dark brown coloured
  • Seed


    • Seed fills the nutlet


    • Seed is egg-shaped with one pointed end

    Surface Texture

    • Seed surface is smooth


    • Seed orange coloured

    Other Features

    • Seed coat is thin and fused to the fruit wall
  • Embryo


    • The embryo fills the seed


    • Embryo is spatulate, axial position


    • Endosperm absent, nutritive tissue stored in the cotyledons

    Other Features

    • Cotyledons are oily and hard textured

Identification Tips


Echium plantagineum nutlets can be distinguished from similar species by strongly curved sides and spiny tubercles that are a whitish colour. Some nutlets may have irregular tubercles and are darker, but the curved sides can distinguish them. When the E. plantagineum nutlet is at rest on its curved side with its narrow end pointed downward, much of the flat end’s dull brown surface is in view and the middle section of the flat end dips down slightly.

Additional Botany Information



  • Flowers are funnel shaped and purple, blue or pink coloured, occasionally white (CABI 2021)
  • Four nutlets develop after flowering, one remains attached to the plant after the rest are dispersed (CABI 2021)

Similar Species


Similar species are based on a study of seed morphology of various species, and those with similar dispersal units are identified. The study is limited by physical specimen and literature availability at the time of examination, and possibly impacted by the subjectivity of the authors based on their knowledge and experience. Providing similar species information for seed identification is to make users aware of similarities that could possibly result in misidentification.

Echium vulgare L. (blueweed)

E. vulgare nutlets are generally smaller (length*: 2.3 – 3.0 mm; width: 1.5 – 2.0 mm). The sides of the nutlet are straight or slightly curved, the sides of E. plantagineum nutlets are strongly curved. Unlike E. plantagineum, the surface of the flat end of the E. vulgare nutlet is not in view and does not dip down when the nutlet is at rest on its curved side with its narrow end pointed downward.

E. vulgare nutlets are darker than E. plantagineum, and the surface ornamentation is generally longitudinal ridges rather than tubercles. The surface colour between the ridges of E. vulgare is dark brown or black, the surface colour of E. plantagineum is lighter.

*Note: minimum and maximum of 20 nutlets in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020).

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Brouillet, L., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P. and Desmet, P. 2010+. VASCAN, the database of vascular plants of Canada Accessed April 26, 2021.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). 2021. Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/cabicompendium Accessed April 26, 2021.

Culvenor, C. C. J. 1956. The alkaloids of Echium plantagineum L. 1. Echiumine and echimidine. Australian Journal of Chemistry 9: 512-520.

Government of Canada (GC). 2016. Canadian Weed Seeds Order. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-93/page-2.html (English) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/reglements/DORS-2016-93/page-2.html (French)

International Seed Morphology Association (ISMA). 2020. Method for Seed Size Measurement. Version 1.0. ISMA Publication Guide.

Kloot, P. M. 1982. The naturalisation of Echium plantagineum in Australia. Australian Weeds, 1: 29-31.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. 1992. Noxious weeds of Australia. Inkarta Press, Melbourne, Australia.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS). 2021. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx Accessed April 26, 2021.



Jennifer Neudorf, Angela Salzl, Ruojing Wang, Karen Castro, Katrina Entwistle

Canadian Food Inspection Agency