Mertensia virginica

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Virginia Bluebell
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: (unplaced)
Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Mertensia
Species: M. virginica
Binomial name
Mertensia virginica
(L.) Pers. ex Link

Mertensia virginica (common names Virginia bluebell, Virginia cowslip, lungwort oysterleaf, Roanoke bells) is a species of flowering plant in the family Boraginaceae, native to moist woodland in eastern North America. It is a spring ephemeral plant with bell-shaped sky-blue flowers opening from pink buds. The leaves are rounded and gray-green, borne on stems up to 60 cm (24 in) tall. They are petiolate at the bottom of the flower stem and sessile at the top.

Flowers with five petals fused into a tube, five stamens, and a central pistil (carpel) are borne in mid-spring in nodding cymes at the end of arched stems. White flowers occur rarely.

The stamens and stigma are spaced too far apart for self-fertilization. The flower can be pollinated by bumblebees but, due to its funnel shape bumblebees must hover, making the bumblebee a rare pollinator. Butterflies are the most common pollinators because they can easily perch on the edges and still enjoy the nectar.

In early summer, each fertilized flower produces four seeds within wrinkled nuts, and the plant goes dormant till the next spring.

Plants are hardy to hardiness zone 3 - −40 °C (−40 °F).

In cultivation, M. virginica has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[1]


Mertensia virginica is the type species for the genus Mertensia and was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 as Pulmonaria virginica.[2] The genus Pulmonaria is today restricted to 19 species in the tribe Boragineae. When Albrecht Wilhelm Roth erected the genus Mertensia in 1797, he named the Virginia bluebell as Mertensia pulmonarioides, apparently unaware that Linnaeus had already named it in his Species Plantarum. Roth's name is a superfluous synonym and has been used in recent literature.[3]


  1. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mertensia virginica". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Carl von Linné (Linnaeus). 1753. Species Plantarum 1:135. (see External links below)
  3. ^ James S. Pringle. 2004. "Nomenclature of the Virginia-bluebell, Mertensia virginica (Boraginaceae)". SIDA, contributions to botany 21(2):771-775.(see External links below)


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