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Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link
Boraginaceae (Borage Family)
USDA Symbol: MEVI3
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Erect plant with smooth gray-green foliage and nodding clusters of pink buds that open into light blue trumpet-shaped flowers. The 1-2 ft., branched and arching stems of Virginia bluebells bear pendulous, terminal clusters of lavender-blue, bell-shaped flowers. Large, gray-green, oval leaves line the stems of this perennial.
When it grows in masses, this species makes a spectacular show, especially in the Midwest. A smaller, trailing, rosy-pink-flowered species, Sea Lungwort (M. maritima), occurs on beaches from Newfoundland to Massachusetts. Tall Lungwort (M. paniculata), a western species with a hairy stem, extends eastward into Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, and Minnesota. The genus is named for the German botanist Franz Karl Mertens (1764-1831).
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Pink , Blue , Purple
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OH , PA , TN , VA , WI , WV
Canada: ON , QC
Native Distribution: NY & s. Ont. to e. MN, s. to NC, AR & e. KS; naturalized northeastward
Native Habitat: Moist woods & clearings; river bottoms. Species at risk in Ontario.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Rich, moist, sometimes rocky, soils.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: For best results, seeds should be sown immediately after collection or stored and planted six weeks prior to the last frost date. If stored over winter and planted in the spring, the seeds must be cold-moist stratified for six weeks. Rhizomes may be divided while the plant is dormant.
Seed Collection: Approximate collection date in northern U.S.: Late May to early Jun. Seeds will ripen in the yellowish-brown fruit approximately 3-4 weeks after flowering. Stem will probably have collapsed by then. Dry and store in a sealed, refrigerated container.
Seed Treatment: Cold moist stratification for six weeks may be necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Mertensia virginica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Mertensia virginica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Mertensia virginica
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-20
Research By: TWC Staff