Viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare)



Viper's bugloss is a widespread weed of pasture, crops and other disturbed sites and can be poisonous to livestock. 


Viper's bugloss usually grows in cool areas mainly on the Central and Southern Tablelands of New South Wales particularly along roadsides.


Viper's bugloss is spread only through the movement of seeds. It appears to be less palatable to stock than Paterson's curse and less competitive. 


Viper’s bugloss is a closely related weed to Paterson's curse (Echium plantagineum). It is often confused with Paterson’s curse but differs in many ways:

  • It is usually a biennial, or sometimes a perennial plant, whereas Paterson’s curse is usually an annual.
  • Its rosette leaves are stalkless and spear-shaped.
  • All its leaves have a warty appearance and are narrower than those of Paterson’s curse.
  • Its leaf veins are not prominent – they are longitudinal and unbranched.
  • The flowers are usually more of a blue in colour and are on a pronounced flower spike. Flowers are smaller (about 1.5–2 cm long) and have four of the five stamens protruding well past the end of the flower.
  • The main flowering period begins later in the season than that for Paterson’s curse and extends over a longer period.
  • The stems are more erect and the stout taproot is usually much longer.


Viper's bugloss is more common in winter-rainfall areas. 


Authors: Mikala Naughton former Project Officer (weeds), Orange Agricultural Institute
Jenene Kidston,  District Agronomist, Mudgee
Paul Sullivan, Coordinator, Biological Weed Control, Tamworth
Dr Chris Bourke, former Principal Research Scientist (poisonous plants), Orange Agricultural Institute

The authors would like to thank the following reviewers Royce Holtkamp, Entomologist, Tamworth and Sarah Robson, Veterinary Officer, Wagga Wagga for their comments and contributions.

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The key to preventing seedling establishment is to aim for full ground cover by using competitive crops or pastures. 

The management techniques to control Paterson's curse, can be applied to control viper's bugloss, including the biocontrol options. 

Herbicide options

Contact your local council weeds officer for control advice for Viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare).

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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Reviewed 2014