Annual, biennial or perennial herbs, mostly covered with tubercle-based hairs. Rosette leaves densely clustered, petiolate, entire or dentate; cauline leaves alternate, widely spaced, sessile, reducing toward inflorescence. Inflorescences terminal and upper-axillary, of 1–several simple or branched monochasial scorpioid cymes; lower flowers with bracts. Flowers often appearing 2-rowed, sessile or subsessile, dense at first, becoming widely spaced in fruit; sepals 5, connate basally, elongating with age; corolla zygomorphic or regular, 5-lobed, funnel-shaped, glabrous except for hairs on the 5 saccate scales in throat, blue, purple or white, lobes spreading; stamens included in corolla-tube, anthers ellipsoid, subsessile; ovary 4-lobed, 4-celled, style filiform, as long as stamens, stigma entire, capitate. Fruit splitting into 4 mericarps, leaving a gynobase with 4 concave depressions; mericarps obliquely ovoid, longitudinally ridged, rugose-reticulate, minutely tuberculate, attached by a broad concave areole with a thickened rim.
About 50 species, widespread in temperate regions of Europe, western Asia and Africa; 3 species naturalised in Australia.
The European Anchusa azurea Mill. (Large Blue Alkanet) was collected at Rokeby near Warragul in 1938, but there have been no further collections from there or elsewhere in Victoria. This robust perennial is characterized by its large, regular, shortly stalked, bright blue flowers, sepals that are free nearly to their base and elongating greatly in fruit, and the large, irregularly ridged mericarps with a basal areole.