The Virginia Bluebell
, Mertensia virginica
, has many different common names, including "Virginia Cowslip", "Lungwort Oysterleaf", and "Roanoke Bells". It is a species
belonging to the family Boraginaceae
. This bluebell ranges in height from 12~24 inches. The most distinguishing feature of the plant is the noticeable bell-shaped flower
, which is usually blue or violet in color.
, was given to this plant by Carolus Linnaeus
in honor of the German botanist Franz Mertens
. The specific epithet
refers to the colony of Virginia
This vascular plant originates in eastern North America
and is native to the following states and provinces: Alabama
, New Jersey
, New York
, North Carolina
, West Virginia
The "Virginia Bluebell" is abundant in the Midwest of the United States. Areas within the British Isles record gardens with many individuals as well. The plant can be easily grown with the right conditions.
plants grow best in moist, rich, and loamy soils. They can be found in upland forests
. These plants prefer slight to full shade. The single stem
begins curled in shape and extends as it grows into an elegant arch to hold to blossom cluster. The leaves are alternately located around a thin, smooth stem attached by petioles
near the base, but as you move upward towards the flower cluster, the leaves are simply attached straight to the stem. The leaves are oval-shaped with pinnately-simple venation. The blossom
cluster is located above the simple leaves. Flowering occurs in spring from March to May.
Each blossom consists of five petals fused into a tubular shape. The bud begins with a pinkish shade that transforms into a blue-violet color as it matures. White blossoms occur rarely. The flower is approximately one inch deep with five stamens surrounding one central pistil; however, the reproductive organs are spaced too far from one another for self-fertilization. The flower can be pollinated by bumblebees, but due to its funnel shape, bumblebees must hover, making the bumblebee a rare pollinator. Butterflies are the most common pollinators, because they can easily perch on the edges and still enjoy the nectar. Each plant produces four wrinkled nuts containing seeds. The flowers die rather quickly, and the plants are usually dormant by early June.
Plants should be spaced nine to twelve inches apart in acidic to mildly alkaline soils. They are hardy to a minimum winter temperature near -24° Fahrenheit
. Bareroot plants can be planted at any time during dormancy, and are usually available from nurseries in the fall and spring. Since the plants make growth early in the spring, they should be planted as early as possible. Potted plants can be purchased from the nursery and planted at any time, although, of course, in the summer and fall the pots will contain only the dormant root and no growth will be visible above the soil. Virginia bluebells can also be grown in an unheated greenhouse
. Seeds can be stratified for sowing indoors and then planted outdoors as young plants. Virginia bluebells are not suitable for growing indoors. Although Virginia bluebells can be propagated by seed, plants can also be divided in the early spring by gently pulling apart the root stock to transplant the divided plants.
Because these are ephemeral plants, meaning that they grow and flower quickly and go dormant for the rest of the growing season, it is also suggested that one should plant these flowers close to flowers that bloom later in the year. This way, your garden will have color in that area for more of the summer season.gogogogogogo