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Polemonium viscosum Nutt.
Sticky Polemonium, Sky Pilot, Sticky Jacob's-ladder
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)
Synonym(s): Polemonium viscosum ssp. genuinum, Polemonium viscosum ssp. lemmonii
USDA Symbol: POVI
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
A leafy plant with stems in clumps has a skunk-like scent from the sticky, glandular hairs that cover leaves and stems; funnel-shaped, blue-violet flowers bloom in loose heads atop stem. Sticky Jacobís-ladder or Sky Pilot has both grass-like and fern-like leaves, occurring in bright-green, 3-6 in. high tufts. The fern-like leaves are divided into thick segments with whorls of small leaflets. A 4-20 in. flower stalk arises from the leaf tuft and bears a cluster of light blue, or occasionally white, tubular flowers. Attractive stamens with golden-orange anthers project from the throat. Sticky Jacobís-ladder has both skunky and sweet-smelling flowers.
The name Sky Pilot comes from its preferred high habitat. Elegant Polemonium (P. elegans), in the high Cascade Mountains of Washington and British Columbia, has undivided leaflets.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 20 inches tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Blue , Violet
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Pale blue to bluish violet, rarely white.
DistributionUSA: AZ , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: S. B.C. & n.e. WA, s.e. through the mts. to n. AZ & NM
Native Habitat: Alpine meadows; open woods near timberline
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun
Soil Description: Rocky, well-drained soils.
PropagationDescription: Scratch seeds lightly into soil in late summer or early fall.
Seed Treatment: A stratification of 40 degrees for 2-3 months improves germination.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Web ReferenceWebref 65 - Montana Field Guides - Plants (2020) State of Montana
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
From the ArchiveWildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.4 - Spring Climbs Rockies Slowly, Colorado Cooler, Conference of Wildflower and Nati...
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Polemonium viscosum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Polemonium viscosum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Polemonium viscosum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-23
Research By: TWC Staff