GREEN ALKANET (Pentaglottis sempervirens)

SW France, Iberian Peninsula

alkanet-close-upBumblebee on Alkanet

Green Alkanet, a perennial wildflower native to Western Europe, has been here in this country since at least 1700. It is self-seeding, flourishing in part shade & our Highbury clay soil. The stout stems of Pentaglottis sempervirens may grow to one metre in height & require staking. Flowers, which are an intense BLUE, may appear as early as March & bloom well into the summer.

The young plant is soft, fuzzy and easily handled. As it grows, its leaves & stems become covered with bristles that are painful to the touch. Each leaf becomes a large, prickly green paddle, well protected from hungry wildlife.

If you dig it up, any morsel of root left in the ground will become another Green Alkanet.

Best Bumblebee in motion 24 May 2015Alkanet

Alkanet sheltering Plume Moth










Bees Favourite.

Bees are irresistably drawn to this wildflower. They will seek out the last blooms on stems that have fallen to the ground. Even in years when bee numbers were down, some always found their way to this garden to visit the Green Alkanet. Seeing so many bee visitors, garden guests are likely to ask ‘What is that blue flower?’


Honeybee on Alkanet clarified


 The word “alkanet” derives from Middle English,  from Old Spanish alcaneta, diminutive of alcana, “henna”, from Medieval Latin alchanna, from Arabic al-ḥinnā’,’henna’: 

The genus name Pentaglottis is Greek, meaning “five tongues”, and the species name sempervirens is Latin and means “always alive”, or “evergreen”.


Humans working near the plant should wear gloves. Leave every last blue flower for the bees, then cut the plant down at the base.

Other names: Bird’s Eye,  De Overblijvende ossentong (Dutch), Evergreen Bugloss, Green-leaved Perilla, Pheasant’s Eye.


Bumblebee with rusty cloak on Alkanet

Alkanet, Starlings on birdbath

Alkanet flwrs and foliage

As a conservation volunteer, you learn that ordinary gardening gloves are inadequate for dealing with some wildflowers. At the Ecology Centre we are provided with gauntlets – tough, rugged gloves reaching almost to the elbow – for tasks involving prickly plants.

My top four wildflowers, rated for thorns, prickles and pain, are

1. Bramble

2. Dog Rose

3. Teasel

4. Green Alkanet

Every one is worth growing for bees, if you have the space and can deal with the prickles.