Tower of Beauty; Tower of Bees

Bug Squad: Happenings in the Insect World    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     June 21, 2017

The Echium wildpretii is commonly known as "The Tower of Jewels" but it ought to be known as "The Tower of Beauty."

That's especially when honey bees gather to collect the blue pollen and sip the sweet nectar.

Or when their wings glisten in the early morning sun.

Or when it's National Pollinator Week.

In our family, we call it "The Christmas Tree" due to two reasons: its height (it's as tall as a Christmas tree) and due to its spiked red blossoms, the color of Christmas.

The plant, in the family Boraginaceae, is biennial and it can reach 10 feet in height. You often see its purple-spiked cousin, the Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) growing wild in Sonoma, along the roads to Bodega Bay. 

The species is endemic to the island of Tenerife. There they call it "Tenerife bugloss."

Whatever you call the plant, it's good to see it racing up the popularity scale as gardeners seek it for their pollinator gardens. There's even a Facebook page, "We got an Echium through the winter."

Common question: "Anyone got seeds for sale?'

Echium wildpretii is that pretty.

A honey bee packing blue pollen as it forages on the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)This foraging honey bee can't get enought of the tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)