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A tall, multi-branched, erect plant having an attractive pyramidal flowering stem bearing numerous, small, lilac or pale flowers. In Malta, Echium italicum is a 2-year living plant, where it survives the hot arid Summer between the consecutive years by means of a dormant leafless aerial stem. This resembles a white Christmas-Tree (or conifer tree) of about 50-100cm in length on the garigue that is often bare of vegetation during Summer, and hence makes it quite conspicuous. The dense long hispid hairs gives this 'woolly-white' appearance during the dormant phase of the plant.
The basal leaves are lance-shaped and large, measuring between 18-32cm long and 1-4cm wide. The upper leaves are shorter and more elongated and oval in shape and becomes gradually smaller towards the apical meristem. Stems and all leaves posses long, white soft hair with a swollen base and often apressed growth. Young plants often start with a basal rosette of leaves.
The plant forms a large, multi-branched, flowering stem that in general has a pyramidal shape. The flowers are numerous and born at the outer part of the branches. They are sub-sessile and so the inflorescence is sometimes referred to as spike-like. Each flowering branch produce an array of flowers that gradually opens up when the previous one dies, over a period of one or 2 months.
The flowers have narrow lanceolate bracts, a calyx made up of 5 narrow sepals and a 5 lobed corolla tube which its colour varies from white to pink-lilac or even cream, but never deep or bright. Except the corolla itself, all the flowering stem and its parts are densely covered with white long soft hair and these persist during the dormant phase giving a unique wooly appearance during Summer as explained before.
The corolla consists of a 10-12mm long tube with 5 lobes, often not perfectly equal. The corolla opens with a pink or flesh-like colour and becomes lilac soon after. The 5 stamens are probably the most conspicuous part of the lower since they are found protruding out from the corolla tube by 10-15m or so. They have a firm white filaments of unequal length, curved up and each hold an anthers covered with yellow pollen. Stamens are inserted at half-way the corolla lobes. The name viper's bugloss are probably referring to these long protruding stamens as if they are the long fangs of a viper.
The female reproductive organ is mostly hidden inside the corolla tube. It consist of a superior ovary with a projecting style slightly shorter from the stamens and a flat stigma. The seeds are 3mm long, brown nutlets which are attached to the receptacle and mostly covered by the calyx and long bristles. They lack any special dispersal mechanism and simply fall off to the ground.
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