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Little blue Spanish belle

Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa)
Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa)

I have been trying to identify this lovely little blue flower which I see all the time when in Galicia, Spain. At first I decided it was Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa), also known as Lithospermum diffusa (which is a synonym or alternative name), a species which occurs in the Iberian Peninsula (1). It is also widely cultivated. Originally, it seems that botanists recognised seven species of Lithodora (Griseb.), and some subspecies, which are mainly found around the Mediterranean Basin (2). However, a molecular study found that the genus was polyphyletic, meaning that there were different groups within it that needed separating (3).  So a new genus was established, called Glandora.  There is however, another species found in the north-western region of the Iberian peninsula, where these photos were taken, called Glandora prostrata, or to give it its full name: Lithodora prostrata (Loisel.) Griseb. subsp. prostrata SYN Glandora prostrata (Loisel.) D.C. Thomas! Not only that, it seems that there is a subspecies called Glandora prostrata subsp. lusitanica (Samp.) D.C. Thomas; could it be that one?! I just don’t know!  The wild flower book (1) does not include  Lithodora prostrata or any subspecies.  I have looked at images on Google, but they all look pretty similar, and it is a bit of a mess, do the photographers know any more than I do and just call it  Glandora prostrata subsp. lusitanica because they saw another photograph!  I guess somebody must know!  It seems to me that botanical names are a bit of a mouthful, so I am calling it my little blue Spanish belle!  Here are some other photographs of it!

Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa or L. prostrata) and gorse in Galicia
Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa or L. prostrata) and gorse in Galicia
Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa or L. prostrata) and gorse in Galicia
Scrambling Gromwell (Lithodora diffusa or L. prostrata) and gorse in Galicia

1) Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (2004). Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean. A & C Black.
2) V. Ferrero, J. Arroyo, S. Castro and L. Navarro (2012). Unusual heterostyly: style dimorphism and self-incompatibility are not tightly associated in Lithodora and Glandora (Boraginaceae). Ann Bot 109(3), 655-665.
3) Thomas D C, Weigend M, Hilger H H. Phylogeny and systematic of Lithodora (Boraginaceae-Lithospermeae) and its affinities to the monotypic genera Mairetis, Halacksya and Paramoltkia based on ITS1 and trnLUAA – sequence data and morphology. Taxon 2008;57:79-97.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

One thought on “Little blue Spanish belle Leave a comment

  1. Hi! Lithodora prostata is in fact, very common in Galicia (a lovely spring sight amongst gorse). Lithodora diffusa, according to local plant book guides occurs only at the very few inland chalkland areas in Galicia. Congratulatinons for the interesting blog and pictures (I appreciate foreign views of my homeland, different eyes, different views!)

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