Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of Virginia blue-
bells is Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native perennial plant is 12½' tall, branching occasionally.
The central stem is round, hairless, and light green.
Leaves: The alternate leaves are up to 7" long and 3" across. They are
light green or greyish green, hairless, with a soft floppy texture. The
leaves are ovate-oval or ovate-oblong in shape, with smooth margins,
and conspicuous pinnate venation. They usually taper to a winged peti-
ole, although some of the upper leaves are sessile.
Flowers: Some of the upper stems terminate in nodding clusters of light
blue flowers. These flowers are about ¾1" long. The corolla of each flow-
er is tubular, flaring outward toward the 5 shallow lobes like a trumpet.
Within the corolla, are 5 white stamens with light brown anthers and a
white style that is long and slender. The small greyish green calyx is div-
ided into 5 blunt teeth. While in the bud stage, the flowers are a light pur-
plish pink, but become light blue with maturity.
Fruit/Seeds: The ovary is divided into 4 lobes, which contain the nutlets.
Roots: The root system consists of a taproot. This plant often forms colon-
REGENERATON PROCESS: Virginia bluebells is generally prop-
agated by seed, occassionally by bare root.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include wet to mesic woodlands, especially
in semi-shaded floodplain areas along rivers, bluffs, and flower gardens.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Virginia bluebells prefer light shade to
partial sun in moist wooded areas with rich soil. The foliage dies down
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
to late spring, and lasts about 3 weeks.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Virginia bluebells is a species primar-
ily of the eastern regions of the United States and Canada. Although not
reported in Florida or Louisiana, it does extend west from Georgia to
Arkansas, through the mid-west and Ohio Valley regions, north to On-
tario and Quebec. It is distributed unevenly throughout New England,
being reported in Maine and Massachusetts, but not New Hamphire,
Vermont, Connecticut, or Rhode Island. This species may be may be
contracting in its native range due to alterations in floodplain areas and
human encroachment in growing areas.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued
bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, anthophorid bees, mason
bees, large leaf-cutting bees, and miner bees; these insects seek nectar and
collect pollen. Other visitors of the flowers include hummingbirds, bee
flies, butterflies, skippers, and sphinx moths, including hummingbird moths.
This group of visitors seek nectar from the flowers. Small flower flies may
also visit the flowers, however they feed on the pollen and are not effective
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