Borage Family

Common Fiddleneck © AFengler

Boraginaceae (bor-aj-in-AY-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Plants often with bristly hairs
  • Flower clusters usually coiled
  • Corolla tube of 5 fused petals

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Herbs, both annual and perennial, and shrubs
  • Leaves
    • Generally narrow, simple (not divided into leaflets)
    • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a cyme (branched stem with flowers opening from the top down)
      • Usually coiled like a fiddlehead (scorpioid cyme), which uncurls in fruit
    • Bisexual, generally radially-symmetric flowers, with 5 fused petals in a corolla tube (corolla is the collective term for petals)
    • Petals usually with appendages which form a crown, most often a different color than the rest of the corolla
    • Ovary usually superior (above the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruits are 1 to 4 single-seeded nutlets (a small, dry fruit that does not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary); some may not mature
Scorpioid Cyme © JMason


  • Approximately 1600 species worldwide
    • Includes forget-me-nots, comfrey, and fiddlenecks
  • Plants often rough with bristly hairs, which may irritate skin
  • Many genera may be toxic from pyrrolizidine alkaloids or accumulated nitrates
  • Scientific name from the included Mediterranean genus borago, from an ancient name of uncertain origin; perhaps from the Latin burra, “a hairy garment,” alluding to the hairy leaves
  • Also called the Forget-me-not family
  • The 2012 Jepson revision (2nd edition) subsumed the Waterleaf family; the 2021 revision reinstated the Waterleaf family
  • Represented by 8 species at Edgewood

See General References

Specific References

Mason, J. 2004. Boraginaceae — Borage family characteristics [Illustration of cyme, adapted]. T. Corelli. Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve (2nd. ed.). Monocot Press, Half Moon Bay, California.

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family