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There are about 30 species in Europe. Echium is a biennial herb of the borage family. It grows quickly, competing well with weeds to between 30 and 90 cm. Flowering occurs between June and October. The numerous flowers are arranged in a spike and are purple to violet-blue, funnel-shaped. It likes warm dry stony soils on open sites. There has been an increase in echium because it contains significant amounts of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and also a rarer stearidonic acid (SdA), which is important as a health food and cosmetic component. The oils, -previously obtained from other sources, have been used for many years in food supplement. The seed oil is used in cosmetic products because of its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory action. Currently Echium is only grown as pilot studies for industrial purposes in the UK. The area under production on set-aside land was around 200 (ha) in 2000.

21st Aug 2005 by Diane Earl

Biology, Geography, Science

Key Stages:
Foundation, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 4+

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