by Stephen Mifsud
   12 Apr 2021      ()
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Echium italicum   (Pale Bugloss)

Echium italicum   (BORAGINACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

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Profile Date May-2006 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (May-2006) Echium italicum retrieved from on 2021-Apr-12

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Echium italicum L.
Published in Sp. Pl. 139 (1753)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

No Main Synonyms
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Boraginaceae Juss. (The Borage Family)
16 species from the Boraginaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Pale Bugloss, Italian Viper's Bugloss, Italian Bugloss

Maltese name(s) :

Ilsien il-fart abjad, Ilsien il-fart kbir

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: HEMICRYPTOPHYTE (prostate plants with flowers close to the ground)
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection [link]:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :


Colour of Flowers:

White or Pink

Species Description and Distribution

Habitat in Europe:

Rocky areas or dry grasslands

Preferred habitat in Malta:

Garigue and rocky areas with enough deep soil, pathways in the countryside, disturbed areas near fields, fallow fields and field margins.

Botanical Description:

Erect, hispid biennial 40-100 cm, usually with a single or a dominant flowering stem. Basal leaves 200-350 x 15-40 mm, lanceolate, with appressed, soft setae; cauline leaves more or less narrowly elliptical. Inflorescence spike-like or much-branched and pyramidal. Calyx 6-7 mm. Corolla 10-12 mm, very narrowly infundibuliform, yellowish-, pinkish- or bluish-white, with 4-5 long-exserted stamens; filaments pale.

Chromosome number:

2n=16, 32

Distributional range:

S. & S.C. Europe

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):

Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):

Albania, Austria and Liechtenstein, the Balaeric Islands, Bulgaria, Corse, Crete, Czeck Republic and Slovakia, France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Greece, Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Hungary, Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), ex-Jugoslavia, Romania, Russia and former USSR, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta, Turkey (European part)

Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(Euro+Med Checklist, 2017) - Country codes

AE Al Ar dAu(A) Bl(I M N) Bu Co Cr Ct Cy Eg Ga Gg Gr Hs(S) Hu -IJ It Li LS Mo Rf(C) Rm Sa Si(M S) Sk Sl Sr Tu(A E) Uk(K U) [He]

Images (9 images)
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-0.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-1.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-2.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-3.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-4.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-5.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-6.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-7.
   Echium italicum   -   Image Code: ECHIT-8.

Links & Further info

Google Web

Google Images

Yahoo Web

Yahoo Images




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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Wild Plants of Malta & Gozo - Plant: Echium italicum (Pale Bugloss)


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Species name:

Echium italicum   L.


Carl von Linné
   Sweden, 1707-1778

Common name:

Pale Bugloss,
Italian vipers bugloss,
Pale bugloss

Maltese name:

Ilsien il-fart abjad
Ilsien il-fart kbir

Plant Family:

Boraginaceae   (Borage Family)

Name Derivation:

Echium = From the Greek echis, "a viper," referring to the nutlets which appear to represent a viper's head (Greek);

italicum = From italy, referring to its origin or where first described (Latin).


Echium italicum subsp. altissimum, E. altissimum, E. collinum , E. pyramidatum

Plant Description

Life Cycle:



Soily garigue, pathways in the country, disturbed soily ground especially near fields.

Sources in Malta:

Locally frequent in several locations such as Mellieha, Gnejna, Wardija, Bahrija and Buskett. Also found in Gozo such as Mgarr ix-Xini.

Plant Height:


Flowering Time:


A tall, multi-branched, erect plant having an attractive pyramidal flowering stem bearing numerous, small, lilac or pale flowers. In Malta, Echium italicum is a 2-year living plant, where it survives the hot arid Summer between the consecutive years by means of a dormant leafless aerial stem. This resembles a white Christmas-Tree (or conifer tree) of about 50-100cm in length on the garigue that is often bare of vegetation during Summer, and hence makes it quite conspicuous. The dense long hispid hairs gives this 'woolly-white' appearance during the dormant phase of the plant.

The basal leaves are lance-shaped and large, measuring between 18-32cm long and 1-4cm wide. The upper leaves are shorter and more elongated and oval in shape and becomes gradually smaller towards the apical meristem. Stems and all leaves posses long, white soft hair with a swollen base and often apressed growth. Young plants often start with a basal rosette of leaves.

The plant forms a large, multi-branched, flowering stem that in general has a pyramidal shape. The flowers are numerous and born at the outer part of the branches. They are sub-sessile and so the inflorescence is sometimes referred to as spike-like. Each flowering branch produce an array of flowers that gradually opens up when the previous one dies, over a period of one or 2 months.

The flowers have narrow lanceolate bracts, a calyx made up of 5 narrow sepals and a 5 lobed corolla tube which its colour varies from white to pink-lilac or even cream, but never deep or bright. Except the corolla itself, all the flowering stem and its parts are densely covered with white long soft hair and these persist during the dormant phase giving a unique wooly appearance during Summer as explained before.

The corolla consists of a 10-12mm long tube with 5 lobes, often not perfectly equal. The corolla opens with a pink or flesh-like colour and becomes lilac soon after. The 5 stamens are probably the most conspicuous part of the lower since they are found protruding out from the corolla tube by 10-15m or so. They have a firm white filaments of unequal length, curved up and each hold an anthers covered with yellow pollen. Stamens are inserted at half-way the corolla lobes. The name viper's bugloss are probably referring to these long protruding stamens as if they are the long fangs of a viper.

The female reproductive organ is mostly hidden inside the corolla tube. It consist of a superior ovary with a projecting style slightly shorter from the stamens and a flat stigma. The seeds are 3mm long, brown nutlets which are attached to the receptacle and mostly covered by the calyx and long bristles. They lack any special dispersal mechanism and simply fall off to the ground.

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Photos from Google Info Link 2
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