Polemonium reptans (Spreading Jacob's Ladder)
|Also known as:||Greek Valerian, Creeping Polemonium|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; moist rich woods|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||10 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Light blue flowers on slender stalks in open clusters at the end of stems arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Flowers are about 2/3 inch across when fully open, bell-like with five oval petals that may be slightly pointed and have somewhat wavy edges. The 5 stamens are shorter than the petals and tipped with large white anthers. The style splits into 3 elements that extend beyond the petals. The calyx is fused with five triangular lobes about half as long as the floral tube, purple tinged and slightly hairy.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are compound, alternately attached with leaflets opposite or alternate. Lower leaves have long stalks and up to 17 leaflets, upper leaves become shorter stalked with fewer leaflets, and simple leaves at branch tips. Leaflets are lance-elliptic, ½ to 1½ inches long and up to about ½ inch wide, pointed at the tip. Plant is generally smooth throughout or with sparse short hairs on stems and leaf stalks. Stems are hollow, green or purple tinged, soft and succulent, diffuse with multiple simple stems arising from the base.
A native of moist shady southeastern Minnesota woodlands, Spreading Jacob's Ladder can perform spectacularly in a cool shady corner of the home garden. It is related to the rare Polemonium occidentale (Western Jacob's Ladder), a larger plant with long yellow-tipped stamens on the flowers, and only known to be in St Louis and Itasca counties.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Goodhue County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Whitewater Management Area in Fillmore County and in a private garden in Anoka County.
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