Virginia Bluebell

One of the great things about working at a native plant nursery is that you get an intimate look at the flowers of some beautiful, but relatively unusual native species. And if they are growing in the greenhouse, we get to enjoy them a little earlier than the rest of our area.

A cluster of Virginia Bluebell flowers (photo by John Verbinnen)

A cluster of Virginia Bluebell flowers (photo by John Verbinnen)

 

One of the first flowers to come out in the greenhouse this year is the Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica). Native to eastern North America, it is a spring ephemeral, meaning that it makes its appearance in the spring for a few weeks before the trees show their leaves. It then goes back into dormancy for the rest of the season.

The flowers are a stunning. They buds are a soft pink, but as they open, they turn blue. If you stumble upon a patch in bloom you will be presented with a magnificent sight as a sea of blue stretches out before you under the forest canopy.

Detail of Virginian Bluebell flowers showing the change from pink to blue (photo by John Verbinnen)

Detail of Virginian Bluebell flowers showing the change from pink to blue (photo by John Verbinnen)

 

Because the flowers are some of the first to open, they are an important source of early spring nectar for butterflies and other nectar feeders.

A macro view of Virginia Bluebell flowers, showing the stamens covered in pollen (photo by John Verbinnen)

A macro view of Virginian Bluebell flowers, showing the stamens covered in pollen (photo by John Verbinnen)

 

Virginiana Bluebell are considered vulnerable in Ontario because they have particular habitat requirements. They sensitive to disturbance, but thankfully, the Niagara Escarpment, with its relative abundance of deciduous forests, low slopes and moist environments creates ideal habitats for these spring beauties.

We are happy to have a small supply of these beauties this spring. If you are interested in making these an addition to your native plants designs or gardens, please let us know!

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