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Mountain Bluebells Mertensia ciliata


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Mountain Bluebells
credit: Ghislain118/CCSA

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Alternate name: Tall Fringe Bluebells

Family: Boraginaceae, Borage view all from this family

Description A plant with clumps of leafy stems and loose clusters of narrowly bell-shaped, blue flowers turning pink with age.
Habit: native perennial herb; with many erect, leafy stems, sometimes bluish, from a thick, branching caudex; forms large colonies.
Height: 2-4.5 ft (0.6-1.4 m)
Leaf: at base, elliptic to oval to lance-shaped, pointed, long-stalked, veiny, toothless; to 6 in (15 cm) long, to 2 in (5 cm) wide; on stem, alternate, becoming narrower and shorter-stalked above; basal leaves wither before flowering.
Flower: drooping, tubular, bell-shaped, blue to violet, becoming pink, fragrant; 1/2-3/4 in (1-2 cm) tall; held in open cluster.
Fruit: 1-4 veiny nutlets. to 0.2 in (5 mm).

Flower May to August.

Flower June - August

Habitat Moist mountain habitats with good air circulation: subalpine meadows, creeksides, stream banks, wet cliffs; subalpine; also cultivated ornamentally.

Range Western U.S., from Oregon and California east to Montana, South Dakota, south to New Mexico.

Discussion Also known as streamside bluebells, tall fringed bluebells. Two varities are recognized. 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.

Comments Good air circulation is necessary to prevent mildew diseases.

Exposure Preference Partial shade to sun.

Native Distribution Colorado & extreme n. New Mexico to California Sierras, n. to w. Montana & s.e. Washington

Site Preference Stream banks; wet meadows; damp thickets

Soil Preference Moist to wet loams & sandy loams. pH 5.5-7.