Tall Bluebells – Mertensia paniculata

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Alaska Wildflowers | Purple

Tall bluebell flower with a butterfly

Tall Bluebells

Mertensia paniculata

Alt. Names:
Bluebells
Languid lady
Chiming bells
Lungwort
Northern bluebells

Alaska subspecies:
Mertensia paniculata var. alaskana
Alaska tall bluebells

Mertensia paniculata var. eastwoodiae
Eastwood’s bluebells

Mertensia paniculata var. paniculata
Tall bluebells

Genus: Mertensia Roth (bluebells)
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage family)
Order: Lamiales

Duration: Perennial

Uses: The flower are edible raw and the leaves are edible raw or cooked

Diagram of Mertensia paniculata from USDA database*

Identification and Information

The tall bluebell is a plant named after the shape and color of the flower produced. The bluebell has many long stems, branching off into several racemes of the hanging, funnel-like, tubular, blue-violet flower. The flowers form from pink buds and sometimes remain slightly pink. The tube of the flower is shorter than the bell. Flowers grow into a small, green fruit capsule.

The leaves are hairy and dark green. They are lanceolate and tapered, round at the base and 4-13 cm (1.5-5 in) in length. Basal leaves are larger than leaves higher up.

Distribution and Habitat

Mertensia paniculata is native to Alaska, most of Canada, and many northern lower 48 states. It’s mostly present in temperate forests in part shade or shade in moist soil.

Many similar flowers go by the common name bluebell, spanning numerous genera and extend over much of the northern hemisphere.

References

Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 3
Mertensia paniculata  (Aiton) G. Don, ITIS Database
Mertensia paniculata (Aiton) G. Don tall bluebells, USDA Database
Mertensia paniculata (Northern Bluebells), Minnesota Wildflowers: a field guide to the flora of Minnesota
Mertensia paniculata – (Aiton.)G.Don., Plants For A Future

*Diagram: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 83. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society

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