The Q&A Archives: Highway Blooms

Question: What is the type of flower that is planted on most of the state highways in Northeast Pennsylvania? It's a purple shade and covers up the spaces around the roads. I checked with the state and they could not give me an answer. I wanted to use that in my backyard but can't find out.

Answer: There are a number of wildflowers planted along the highways, but the most commonly encountered is Bugloss, Viper's/ Blueweed (Echium vulgare). A very hairy, bristly 1-2 1/2'' plant. The sessile alternate leaves are smooth-edged. The 1/2" flowers are borne on the upper sides of short, curled side-branches and only 1 or 2 flower blooms at a time. The funnel-shaped corolla has 5 lobes, the upper longer than the others. The buds are red and the corolla is blue to purple. Long red stamens project beyond the corolla. Blooms June-September in waste places, roadsides.

Small bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis) is similar but the flowers are only half as large.

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