Boraginaceae image
Kitty Kohout  

Key to Wisconsin Boraginaceae

Author: John G. Zaborsky

    • 1b.Stems and leaves pubescent 2

    • 2a.Flowers orange, yellow, or pale yellow 3

    • 2b.Flowers white, greenish white, cream, blue, maroon, or pink 4

    • 3a.Annuals; inflorescence ebracteate or with a few bracts proximally; sepals with hairs of two distinct types (some large, hispid, and often orange, the others slender and appressed) Amsinckia

    • 3b.Perennials; all flowers subtended by bracts; sepals with hairs all similar in size and shape Lithospermum

    • 4a.Corollas zygomorphic 5

    • 4b.Corollas actinomorphic 6

    • 5a.Corolla tube 4–7 mm long; stamens included; annuals Lycopsis

    • 5b.Corolla tube 10–19 mm long; stamens exserted; perennials Echium

    • 6b.Leaves lacking spots 7

    • 7a.Style exserted, longer than the calyx 8

    • 7b.Style included, shorter than the calyx 10

    • 8a.Corollas dull white to greenish, the lobes acute; inflorescence with prominent bracts below each flower Lithospermum

    • 8b.Corollas blue or pink, the lobes obtuse or rounded; inflorescences lacking bracts or with a few proximally 9

    • 9a.Corolla puberulent outside; calyx lobes with hairs of two types (some large and hispid) others small and hooked; adaxial leaf surfaces with some hairs 1 mm or more in length Symphytum

    • 9b.Corolla glabrous; calyx lobes with only appressed hairs; adaxial leaf surfaces with hairs less than 0.5 mm long Mertensia

    • 10a.Flowers white or cream 11

    • 10b.Flowers blue, purple, maroon, or pink 16

    • 11a.Leaves with prominent lateral veins 12

    • 11b.Leaves without lateral veins (or rarely weakly noticeable) 13

    • 12a.Fruits smooth, shiny, and white; corolla limb 4–5 mm wide Lithospermum

    • 12b.Fruits covered in barbs, dull, and green or brown; corolla limb 2–3 mm wide Hackelia

    • 13a.Calyces with hooked hairs Myosotis

    • 13b.Calyces without hooked hairs 14

    • 14a.Nutlets covered in barbs Lappula

    • 14b.Nutlets rugose 15

    • 15a.Flowers subtended by leaf-like bracts 2 mm or more wide; all leaves alternate Buglossoides

    • 15b.Flowers ebracteate or rarely with a few bracts 1 mm wide or less; proximal cauline leaves opposite Plagiobothrys

    • 16a.Inflorescences ebracteate or with a few bracts proximally 17

    • 16b.Inflorescences ebracteate or with a few bracts proximally 19

    • 17a.Leaves with lateral veins absent or only weakly developed; flowers with a yellow “eye”; nutlets smooth Myosotis

    • 17b.Leaves with prominent lateral veins; flowers without a yellow “eye”; nutlets covered in barbs 18

    • 18a.Cauline leaves petiolate; stems leafy throughout; inflorescence bracteate proximally; pedicels laterally-oriented in fruit Cynoglossum

    • 18b.Cauline leaves sessile; stems leafy only on the proximal half; inflorescence ebracteate; pedicels recurved in fruit Ansdersonglossum

    • 19a.Corolla tubes 12–17 mm long, the limb 6–11 mm wide; nutlets tuberculate Anschusa

    • 19b.Corolla tubes 1–4 mm long, the limb 1–4 mm wide; nutlets covered in barbs 20

    • 20a.Pedicels recurved after flowering; leaf blades elliptic with prominent lateral veins Hackelia

    • 20b.Leaves with prominent lateral veins; flowers without a yellow “eye”; nutlets covered in barbs Lappula

This is an easily recognized family in our area, with almost all members being rough-pubescent herbs with alternate leaves, radially symmetrical flowers, and deeply 4-lobed ovaries. The inflorescence is cymose but usually develops in only one direction, resulting in a distinctive coiled shape. Although some recent works have united them, there is now more evidence to keep the Hydrophyllaceae separate from the Boraginaceae. Normally, one nutlet develops from each lobe of the ovary and technical features of these are traditionally used in keys. Our taxa are fairly distinct from one another, so easier characters have been used where possible. Most of our species have long flowering periods so plants are usually collected with both flowers and fruits. Borago officinalis L., borage, is sometimes cultivated for medicinal or culinary uses and has been collected once in Walworth Co. “appearing spontaneously in a garden”; it is not established, however. It is quite distinct from all our other species in having a rotate corolla with a very short tube and conspicuous anthers that give the flowers a look reminiscent of shooting-stars or tomatoes. The introduced genera Amsinckia, Anchusa, Buglossoides, and Lycopsis are each known from only a handful of old collections; they may no longer be present in the state. Cochrane (1975) did much to clarify the identities and distributions of many of our introduced species.