Polemonium reptans (Spreading Jacob's Ladder)

Plant Info
Also known as: Greek Valerian, Creeping Polemonium
Family:Polemoniaceae (Phlox)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] 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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More photos

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.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Elizabeth - Zumbrota (Goodhue Cty) Bike Trail and Isaac Walton Trail
on: 2011-05-29 19:27:55

My friend Mark and I ride these trails on our recumbent tricycles indentifying all the wildflowers we see. The trikes put us almost on a level with the plants and allow us to dawdle along and stop to examine them; decidedly a delightful way to view wildflowers!

Posted by: Jess - lake city
on: 2011-06-06 11:03:48

I found a few of these in our backyard, and they are so beautiful! I had a hard time finding out what they werem however, once again, tis website helped me out! Thank you!

Posted by: Pat - Pillager-my garden
on: 2012-07-26 23:50:17

To me, this is one of those must have native plants in the garden. Its pretty blue flowers in May last a long time and brighten up the landscape after a long winter. And the leaves add interest all summer.

Posted by: Starr - Minneapolis
on: 2015-05-11 14:53:13

Nice to know these are native. I weeded out the areas for them the last few years and was shocked this week when they bloomed- thousands of heavenly blue-purple flowers hanging above delicate the green foliage.

Posted by: Linda - Lebanon Hills Park, Eagan
on: 2015-05-29 03:07:05

This is a banner year for Jacob's Ladder, at least 3 to 5 times the amount I saw last year at Jensen Lake. Also a great year there for Columbine, Jack in the Pulpit and Nodding or Declining Trillium.

Posted by: Jo S - SW corner near Rowena
on: 2017-03-16 01:23:38

Got a few of these in my flower beds. I don't remember planting them. May have brought in with another plant from a nursery. Anyway I really like them when they bloom but it is a very short season. I found them in my semi-shady areas near trees.

Posted by: Sydney - Carley State Park near Plainview, MN
on: 2019-05-26 11:31:14

Not too many of these blooming in the park right now. Thanks for your excellent work on this website. This plant was not in my Wildflowers of Minnesota Field Guide (Stan Tekiela), so was really happy to find it on here for ID purposes!

Posted by: Susan Premo - Goodhue
on: 2020-05-20 11:32:03

Along hwy. 61 over railroad tracks, is a lovely portion of state forest, along a beautiful stretch of dirt road. I dont know the name of the state forest, but its along a road named ski road. I could dwell in that beauty forever. Amazing!

Posted by: Laurie Ollhoff - Farmington
on: 2020-06-11 20:31:12

I have these in several gardens. If anyone wants some let me know. They are the most beautiful plant.

Posted by: Wendy Sandstrom - Anoka County - Blaine
on: 2021-04-20 08:19:46

Private residence.

Posted by: sheila Williams - SAINT PAUL
on: 2022-02-09 20:56:19

Is Jacob's ladder toxic to dogs? thanks.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2022-02-10 07:44:21

There are many toxic plants out there, especially in the garden trade, but according to google Jacob's ladder is not one. One has to wonder why a dog would eat such a plant in the first place...

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