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What is Boraginaceae?

By Soo Owens
Updated May 21, 2024
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Boraginaceae, also called the Borage family, is a a family of flowering plants. Perhaps the most well-known member of the family is the forget-me-not, or Myosotis genus. Most species are herbs, though there are some notable examples of tree and shrub species, including Cordia sebestena and Ehretia rigida, respectively.

The Borage family is fairly diverse and contains over 2,000 species. They can be found on nearly every continent. The highest concentration of Boraginaceae, however, is around the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and in northwestern Africa.

Most of these plants are marked by small hairs on their outer surfaces, including the leaves, stems, and inflorescences, or flowers, that form off a branch on the stem. These tiny hairs can cause itching and skin irritation if touched repeatedly. Gardeners who must come into contact with Boraginaceae should wear gloves.

Plants within this family can be either perennial, living two years or longer, or annual, requiring replanting every year. Boraginaceae are particularly noteworthy for their flowering arrangements and colors. The flowers on many species are a brilliant blue or violet hue. Others display different shades of pink, yellow, white, and red.

The helical inflorescences on many Boraginaceae, such as those of Amsinkia, or fiddleneck genus, are one of their distinguishing features. The inflorescence, located at the top of a plant's stem, forms as a tightly wound spiral. As the flowers mature, this spiral begins to unravel. The flowers bloom starting at the lowest point of the spiral and continue to unravel until the inflorescence is nearly straight. The end result is often a pattern of alternating left and right flowers.

The majority of Boraginaceae are cultivated for ornamental and decorative purposes. The vibrant shades of blue and the inflorescences' unique helical formations give many species an attractive appearance. Some plants are utilized in dye-making in certain regions of the world.

Approximately 50 different species make up the forget-me-nots, members of the Myosotis genus. Their flowers are relatively tiny, measuring only .4 inches (1 cm) in diameter. Forget-me-nots are valued for the vibrant blue coloration of their five-petal flowers. While the blue hues are the most common, the flowers on some forget-me-nots exhibit softer shades of white and pink. Most species are from New Zealand but there are a few that are native to Europe that have spread throughout the Americas and Asia.

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