Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica Boraginaceae

Growth habit




Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, Eastern United States


A 14-20" tall ephemeral with pink buds that become blue as the flowers open.
Light: part sun to shade
Moisture and Soil: dry to moist well-drained soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: keep seed moist; warm/cold/warm stratify, will develop a small rhizome in the soil before it sends up the first leaf.

Biocultural value

The Cherokee took Virginia bluebell for tuberculosis and whooping cough. The Haudenosaunee used the roots to treat venereal disease and as an antidote for poisons.

The statements above were sourced from:

Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany

Wildlife value

Virginia bluebell flowers can self pollinate, but substantially more seed is produced via cross pollination (Enz 1998). Floral visitors are primarily long-tongued bees, and include honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees (Anthophora spp., Synhalonia spp.), and mason bees (Osmia spp.) Short-tongued “robber bees” frequently cut holes in the flower to access nectar. Ruby-throated hummingbirds may also collect nectar from the flowers. Seeds are ant-dispersed. White-tailed deer occasionally browse the foliage.

Enz, John J. “Reproductive Biology and Pollination Ecology of Mertensia Virginica (L.) Pers.” Ph.D., University of Louisville, 1998., Illinois Wildflowers

Climate change sensitivity

Over the period from 1986 to 2015, Mertensia virginica bloomed an average of 9.3 days earlier.


Mundy Wildflower Garden

Source of plant

Sunny Border Nurseries


Plants 40—60-cm tall; leaves elliptic to ovate, blackish-purple to green, emerging with a metallic shine, later becoming paler blue-green to lettuce green and glabrous. Flowers pink in bud opening to sky-blue, rarely pink or white held in nodding clusters in April and May. Plants die back soon after flowering.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics

Virginia bluebell flowers act as a pH indicator, with pinkish buds shifting to blue as the petals open and the additional fluid reduces the acidity within.