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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native perennial plant is 1–2½' tall, branching occasionally. The central stem is round, hairless, and light green. The alternate leaves are up to 7" long and 3" across. They are light green or greyish green, hairless, with a soft floppy texture. The leaves are ovate-oval or ovate-oblong in shape, with smooth margins, and conspicuous pinnate venation. They usually taper to a winged petiole, although some of the upper leaves are sessile. Some of the upper stems terminate in nodding clusters of light blue flowers. These flowers are about ¾–1" long. The corolla of each flower is tubular, flaring outward toward the 5 shallow lobes like a trumpet. Within the corolla, are 5 white stamens with light brown anthers and a white style that is long and slender. The small greyish green calyx is divided into 5 blunt teeth. While in the bud stage, the flowers are a light purplish pink, but become light blue with maturity. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring, and lasts about 3 weeks. The ovary is divided into 4 lobes, which contain the nutlets. The root system consists of a taproot. This plant often forms colonies.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Comments

It is easy to see why Virginia Bluebells is a favorite woodland wildflower. The pastel colors of the flowers and foliage are soft and soothing. Some plants produce mature flowers that are white or pink. There are other Mertensia spp. in the United States with a similar appearance, but they occur north or west of Illinois. They have smaller flowers and pubescent foliage.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Virginia Bluebells is a fairly common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include wet to mesic woodlands, especially in semi-shaded floodplain areas along rivers, bluffs, and flower gardens.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Virginia Bluebells is a fairly common plant that occurs in most counties of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include wet to mesic woodlands, especially in semi-shaded floodplain areas along rivers, bluffs, and flower gardens.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects and Birds of Virginia Bluebells in Illinois

Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)
(Hummingbirds & most insects suck nectar; some bees collect pollen as indicated below; some flies feed on pollen as indicated below; all observations are from Robertson)

Birds
Trochilidae: Archilochus colubris sn

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera cp; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn, Bombus bimaculatus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn fq, Bombus vagans sn; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora abrupta sn, Anthophora ursina sn fq; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia belfragii sn cp fq, Synhalonia dubitata sn fq, Synhalonia speciosa sn fq icp; Anthophoridae (Nomadini): Nomada dentariae sn; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Osmia atriventris sn cp, Osmia lignaria lignaria sn, Osmia pumila sn cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella striata sn np, Lasioglossum versatus sn np

Flies
Syrphidae: Rhingia nasica sn fp, Teuchocnemis lituratus fp np; Bombyliidae: Bombylius major sn

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus sn, Vanessa atalanta sn; Papilionidae: Papilio troilus sn

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Erynnis juvenalis sn

Moths
Sphingidae: Hemaris thysbe sn, Hyles lineata sn

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Faunal Associations

The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees, Mason bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, and Miner bees; these insects seek nectar and collect pollen. Other visitors of the flowers include hummingbirds, bee flies, butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths, including hummingbird moths. This group of visitors seek nectar from the flowers. Small flower flies may also visit the flowers, however they feed on the pollen and are not effective pollinators.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Mertensia virginica

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mertensia virginica

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is light shade to partial sun in moist wooded areas with rich soil. The foliage dies down by mid-summer.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Wikipedia

Mertensia virginica

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Mertensia virginica". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 

Gallery[edit]

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