Mertensia virginica Pers. ex Link
March to June Family: Boraginaceae
Flower: Flowers are in clusters at the ends of flower stalks. Each flower base is set into a green cup with five pointed lobes. The flower is a long tube that flares into a bell. The tube is about twice as long as the bell. The bell’s rim has small notches as though beginning five petals. The buds are pink and turn blue as the flowers open. Some plants retain the pink flowers or can have white ones.
Leaf: Basal leaves appear first. They look like loose cabbage leaves and can be pinkish in color. Each leaf is broadly oval with a single midvein. The edges are smooth often with a small notch at the leaf tip. The leaves are not hairy. The stem leaves are alternate with petioles. The petioles and leaves get smaller further up the stem.
Stem: Smooth unbranched stems grow up to two feet tall but often arch so appearing shorter. Each rootstock may have several stems. The tips put out several flower stalks.
Root: The perennial root is stout, woody and can have rhizomes.
Habitat: This plant likes shady moist areas such as along rivers, ravines and bottomland forests.
Finding one Virginia Bluebell means finding several of them. The plants form colonies and are easy to spot in bloom as the blue, although it appears pastel as a single flower, is vivid when numerous flowers are in a small area.
Virginia Bluebells are a lovely wildflower and easy to grow in a shade garden. They do insist on being in the shade most of the time, having plenty of moisture and rich dirt. The plants go dormant shortly after setting seed in mid summer.
The leaves are attractive when they first come up as they are large and dark pink. They gradually turn green. They appear soft and feel smooth.
The flower buds are pink then lavender but open as blue flowers. Each cluster has a bouquet of flowers that often point downwards. Single flowers point more up.
The pink or white form can be a single plant in a colony of blue flowered plants.