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Mertensia ciliata (Tall fringed bluebells)
Cressler, Alan

Mertensia ciliata

Mertensia ciliata (James ex Torr.) G. Don

Tall Fringed Bluebells, Tall Fringe Bluebells, Mountain Bluebells

Boraginaceae (Borage Family)


USDA Symbol: meci3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Several 1-3 ft. stems emerge in a clump from the woody root of Tall Fringe Bluebells or Mountain Bluebells. Smooth, succulent leaves are crowded along these stems. A plant with clumps of leafy stems and loose clusters of narrowly bell-shaped, blue flowers turning pink with age. Pendent clusters of clear blue, tubular flowers exude a mild fragrance. Root crowns and rhizomes spread over time, forming extensive patches.

Mertensias are also called Lungworts, after a European species with spotted leaves which was believed to be a remedy for lung disease. Similar species differ in the proportions of the corolla.


From the Image Gallery

41 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Schizocarp
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Nutlets.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Blue
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , SD , UT , WY
Native Distribution: CO & extreme n. NM to CA Sierras, n. to w. MT & s.e. WA
Native Habitat: Stream banks; wet meadows; damp thickets

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist to wet loams & sandy loams.
Conditions Comments: Good air circulation is necessary to prevent mildew diseases.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Divide rhizomes in the spring. It is also possible to propagate this plant from seed.
Seed Treatment: Seed scarification enhances germination. Rub between sheets of medium-grit sandpaper.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed 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.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 74 - Southwest Colorado Wildflowers (2020) Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-02-20
Research By: TWC Staff

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