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This is a rather floppy plant, although both the flowers and foliage are quite attractive. The bell-shaped flowers and compound leaves together provide Jacob's Ladder with a distinctive appearance. The only other species that resembles it, Polemonium vanbruntiae (Greek Valerian), which is native to some of the Eastern States, doesn't occur in the wild in Illinois. This latter species is more erect in habit, and it has slightly larger flowers with exerted stamens. The flowers of this latter species are usually a darker shade of blue than those of Jacob's Ladder. The common name of Polemonium reptans refers to the pairs of opposite leaflets on the compound leaves, which supposedly resemble a series of steps on a ladder in a dream by the biblical Jacob.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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