Giant Viper's Whatsit

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Giant Viper's Whatsit

Echium Pininana by Cactuscafe

Guest description by Post Editor: Cactuscafe said, 'So this has been the summer of the Echium Pininana, The Giant Viper's Bugloss. I've been cycling around looking at them. Every two years they sprout these huge towers. I'm obsessed with them. Its like Gulliver's Travels. Or the saguaro cactus. They alter your sense of perspective.'

She added, 'That's not the official h2g2 intro. You have to write that, haha.' O-kay…

So I look at the photos. I have never seen anything like these absurd plants. Seriously. Giant viper's bugloss? Does 'giant' refer to the plant, or the viper? What kind of viper? Is that 'bugloss' as in 'bugle', or 'bug'? In other words, what the…?

Apparently, these monster plants, which I would certainly include in my next low-budget science fiction movie to ensure that everybody believed we were really on another planet, in fact belong to the Canary Islands. English people have planted them in their botanical gardens. Of course they have. Because moving plants around is fun.

I found them in the Invasive Plant Atlas of the US. They've been planted in California, and they turned out to be a menace, like those lovely asparagus ferns which look so cool in your office in chilly Philadelphia, but which break through roofs in sunny Florida. Recommendation: read up on your houseplants before you go hog-wild.

So there you are: an official, well-informed take on the Giant Viper's Bugloss. Not happy? Go read the effusive gardening instructions.

Giant viper's buglossGiant viper's bugloss
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