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Best Time to See
When it flowers between June and August
Dry grassland, banks and dunes, especially where there is chalky soil
A flamboyant wild flower of dry banks and dunes. Serpentine in appearance, it was once used as an anti-venom for bites from the spotted viper. It has been known to irritate the skin, so best not to touch if you want to avoid its bite!
How to spot it
Tall spikes of vivid blue flowers with rough petals and red tongue-like stamens. Each flower is roughly a centimetre to two centimetres long.
It’s the County Flower of East Lothian/Haddintonshire.
In the Language of Flowers viper’s bugloss stands for falsehood, no doubt inspired by its snake-like nature.
How’s it doing?
Somewhat declined since the 1930s, due to agricultural intensification and habitat loss.
3 things you may not know
- Other names for this wild flower include ‘snake flower’ and ‘blue devil’.
- “Bugloss” is derived from the Greek word bou (meaning cow or ox) and the Latin word glosso (meaning tongue). These refer to its leaves, which could be said to be shaped like an ox-tongue.
- Despite its fearsome appearance, viper’s bugloss is loved by insects of all kinds, especially bees, hoverflies and butterflies. The Painted Lady butterfly is particularly fond of it.