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This is a large, almost cosmopolitan family, especially diverse in the Mediterranean region. Many species of Boraginaceae in Australia are introduced weeds (such as Patersons Curse), but others are native. They are found in a wide variety of communities almost throughout Australia.

Characteristic features of the family Boraginaceae in Australia include:

  • mostly herbs, rarely shrubs, often with stiff, tubercle-based bristles on leaves and stems
  • flowers borne in usually coiled (scorpioid or helicoid) cymes
  • petals fused at least at the base, often with scales in the throat of the tube, usually blue or white; stamens usually 4 or 5, at least partly fused to corolla
  • fruits dry, breaking into four nutlets (occasionally a drupe)


Evergreen trees or shrubs, or annual or perennial terrestrial herbs, rarely herbaceous vines climbing by twining stems, or aquatic herbs rooted in the substrate with their leaves emergent. If perennial herbs then perennating by rhizomes, tubers, taproots or crowns, rarely stoloniferous. Vegetative reproduction absent or rarely by rhizomes or stolons. Plants with simple, dendritic, glandular or non-glandular, unicellular or uniseriate hairs, rarely glabrous or with stellate hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or both basal and cauline if herbs, petiolate, subsessile or rarely sessile. Stipules absent. Lamina simple, symmetric, filiform, acicular, subulate, linear, lanceolate, ovate, elliptic, oblanceolate, ovate, oblong or orbicular; base cuneate, attenuate or rounded; margins entire, crenate, dentate, serrate, undulate or sinuate, ±flat, revolute or recurved; venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous or inconspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate or not; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous, leathery or rarely succulent. Domatia present. Male and female flowers occurring on separate plants, or with all the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal, leaf opposed or rarely intercalary, consisting of spikes, thyrses, dichasial or monochasial cymes. Bracts rarely present. Pollination by insects. Flowers rarely fragrant; sessile or stalked. Floral disc present or absent; nectaries absent or present on the disc. Perianth regular, of 2 dissimilar whorls. Calyx segments fused, or rarely free from each other, with 5 (–8) lobes, or rarely sepals, imbricate or valvate in bud; calyx bell-shaped or rarely urn-shaped, herbaceous, base with spurs or pouches, rarely with wings or other appendages, or without appendages. Corolla segments fused, with 5 (–8) lobes, alternating with the calyx lobes or sepals, imbricate in bud; corolla wheel-shaped, bell-shaped, urn-shaped, funnel-shaped, salver-shaped or tubular, white, cream, yellow, orange, magenta, purple, violet or blue, without contrasting markings, or streaked, spotted, etc, membranous; lobes ±entire, or rarely trifid, trilobed or more divided. Fertile stamens 4–5 (–8), opposite to the sepals or calyx lobes, at least partly fused to the corolla, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other or fused by their filaments into an open or apparently closed tube or apparently fused by their anthers, all ±equal, rarely in equal pairs or 2 unequal pairs. Staminodes rarely present. Anthers dorsifixed or basifixed, not versatile, opening inwards by longitudinal slits; 2-celled; with appendages absent or rarely apical or dorsal. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels 2 or 4, fused; ovary with 2 or 4 locules. Style gynobasic or terminal, single and unbranched, or single and branched above. Ovules 1–2 per locule, stalked or sessile; placentation basal, apical or axile. Fruit dry, a schizocarp forming mericarps (microbasarium); or rarely a fleshy, indehiscent drupe; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous, dry and persistent or growing larger. Disseminule macro-surface featureless, or with wings, spines or awns; micro-surface ±smooth, reticulate or rugose, brown, grey or black; without contrasting markings, or rarely conspicuously patterned, dull or rarely glossy. Seeds 1–4 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2–3 or more. Embryo straight or curved.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Boraginaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 30.

Australian genera of Boraginaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

† = some species native, others introduced
* = all species introduced


Argusia argentea (flowers and fruit)
Photo: H.Nicholson © H. & N. Nicholson 

Austrocynoglossum latifolium (flowers and fruit)
Photo: M.Fagg © M.Fagg 

Cordia subcordata (flower)
Photo: H.Nicholson © H. & N. Nicholson 

Echium plantagineum (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg © M.Fagg