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Narrowleaf Bluebells Mertensia lanceolata


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Narrowleaf Bluebells
credit: Bill Marmie/CCSA

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Alternate name: Prairie Bluebells

Family: Boraginaceae, Borage view all from this family

Description Variable species, easily confused with other bluebells.
Habit: native perennial herb; with several sometimes bluish stems, branched at top, arising from a stout woody root; clump-forming.
Height: 4-16 in (10-40 cm).
Leaf: erect, broadly lanceolate, pointed, sometimes spotted with hairy resininous glands; 1-3 in (25-75 mm) long.
Flower: tubular, bell shaped, drooping, 5-parted, pink to lavender to pale blue, 1/2 in (12 mm) tall; in cluster of up to 12 flowerheads.
Fruit: 1-4 black, roughened nutlets.

Flower April to August.

Habitat Dry prairies, eroded slopes, woodlands, meadows, forest openings; 5000-14,000 ft (1500-4300 m).

Range Central North America, from Alberta to Manitoba, south to Utah, New Mexico, and Nebraska.

Discussion Also known as mountain bluebells, prairie bluebells, foothills mertensia, wild forget-me-not, lungwort, bluebells, languid-ladies. Four varieties are recognized.

There are no known economic uses for the plant. However, under the obsolete "doctrine of signatures" practiced by the early herbalist-physicians, the spotted leaves were a sure indication that the plants would cure diseases of the lungs.