Annual to perennial herbs, rarely shrubs or trees; usually bearing stiff, tubercle-based hairs. Leaves alternate, often rosetted at base, rarely opposite, simple or rarely pinnate, usually entire, petiolate or sessile; stipules absent. Inflorescences are axillary or terminal, usually consisting of few–many monochasial scorpioid cymes; bracts usually present. Flowers usually regular, bisexual; calyx of 5 free or partly fused sepals; corolla tubular, usually 5-lobed, often with saccate protrusions or scales in the throat or at the base of the tube; stamens as many as petals and alternating with them, filaments usually largely fused to corolla, anthers usually c. ovoid; ovary superior, 4-locular or rarely 2- or 1-locular; ovules 1 per locule, basal, style simple or branched, terminal or gynobasic, stigma terminal, capitate or lobed. Fruit usually a schizocarp, splitting into 4 (or fewer by abortion) single-seeded mericarps, falling to reveal the persistent ovary base (gynobase), sometimes indehiscent, rarely drupaceous, rarely a loculicidal capsule; mericarps smooth or variously ornamented; seeds with or without endosperm.
About 156 genera and c. 2500 species (in the broad sense) or 90 genera with c. 1700 species (in the strict sense), cosmopolitan but particularly well represented around the Mediterranean; 20 genera and c. 65 species (in the broad sense) or 18 genera and c. 40 species (in the strict sense) in Australia (see note below).
More recently reclassifed, with some previously recognised subfamilies elevated to family rank and some old family concepts reorganised and resurrected (see BWG 2016; Weigend et al. 2016). This classification is not yet followed here. See notes under Halgania, Heliotropium, and Phacelia.
Boraginales Working Group (2016). Familial classification of the Boraginales, Taxon 65: 502-522.
Weigend, M., Selvi, F., Thomas, D.C. & Hilger, H.H. (2016). Boraginaceae. In K. Kubitzki (ed.), The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants Volume 14, Springer, Berlin.