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Clintonia borealis (Bluebead)
Smith, R.W.

Clintonia borealis

Clintonia borealis (Aiton) Raf.

Bluebead, Yellow Bluebead-lily, Clintonia, Blue-bead Lily

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Synonym(s): Dracaena borealis

USDA Symbol: clbo3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

A basal clump of three to five thick, shiny, oval leaves surrounds an 8-15 in. leafless stem topped by a cluster of nodding, pale yellow-green flowers. The stalk rises from a basal set of shiny, bright green, oblong leaves and has at its summit 3-6 yellowish-green, drooping, bell-like flowers. Bright blue, spherical berries follow the flowers.

The cluster of beautiful fruits are noted for their extraordinary true-blue color. The plant was named in honor of the former governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828). A less common species, White Clintonia (C. umbellulata), has numerous, erect, white flowers and black berries.


From the Image Gallery

27 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Blue
Size Class: 0-1 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: May , Jun


USA: CT , GA , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to Man., s. to New England, mountains of GA & TN, MI & MN
Native Habitat: Damp, coniferous woods & bogs; sometimes deciduous and birch-fir woods; sub-alpine meadows

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Deep, damp, cold leafmold.
Conditions Comments: Difficult to grow where summer temperatures are substantially above 75 degrees. In appropriate environments, clintonia provides an attractive ground cover. Benefits from a heavy einter mulch of mixed pine and deciduous leaves. Watch for slugs and snails.


Use Wildlife: Chipmunks and birds relish the berries.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Berries suspect, caution. No known cases. Toxic Principle: Unknown; suspected due to relation to toxic plants.

The plant was named in honor of the former governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828). (Niering)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Usually propagated by dividing underground runners in fall or early spring, but may also be grown from seed planted immediately after ripening. Plant divisions 1 in. deep. Be careful when handling the rhizomes and roots, because they are brittle. Pulp-
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Must be stratified; accomplished naturally by planting outdoors.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Clintonia borealis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Clintonia borealis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Clintonia borealis


Record Modified: 2012-07-03
Research By: TWC Staff

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