Higher classification Boraginales
Scientific name Boraginaceae
|Lower classifications borage, viper's bugloss, Comfrey, Cordia, Heliotropium|
According to the APG II, the Boraginaceae belongs among the euasterid I group, including the orders Gentianales, Lamiales, and Solanales, but whether it should be assigned to one of these orders or to its own (Boraginales) is still uncertain. Under the older Cronquist system it was included in Lamiales, but it is now clear that it is no more similar to the other families in this order than they are to families in several other asterid orders. The Boraginaceae is paraphyletic with respect to Hydrophyllaceae and the latter is included in the former in the APG II system. In some recent classifications the Boraginaceae is broken up into several families: Boraginaceae sensu stricto, Cordiaceae, Ehretiaceae, Heliotropiaceae, Lennoaceae, and Hydrophyllaceae.
These plants have alternately arranged leaves, or a combination of alternate and opposite leaves. The leaf blades usually have a narrow shape; many are linear or lance-shaped. They are smooth-edged or toothed, and some have petioles. Most species have bisexual flowers, but some taxa are dioecious. Most pollination is by hymenopterans, such as bees. Most species have inflorescences that have a coiling shape, at least when new. The flower has a usually five-lobed calyx. The corolla varies in shape from rotate to bell-shaped to tubular, but it generally has five lobes. It can be green, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, or blue. There are five stamens and one style with one or two stigmas. The fruit is a drupe, sometimes fleshy.
Most members of this family have hairy leaves. The coarse character of the hairs is due to cystoliths of silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate. These hairs can induce an adverse skin reaction, including itching and rash in some individuals, particularly among people who handle the plants regularly, such as gardeners. In some species, anthocyanins cause the flowers to change color from red to blue with age. This is may be a signal to pollinators that a flower is old and depleted of pollen and nectar.
Well-known members of the family include: