tall bluebells

(Mertensia paniculata var. paniculata)

Conservation Status


No image available

  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Tall bluebells is a 12 to 40 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on usually multiple stems from a fibrous caudex or stout rhizome. It is often found in clumps. It is not colonial.

The stems are fragile, fleshy, leafy, hairless or sparsely hairy, and branching near the top.

Leaves are hairy on both sides. Basal leaves, when present, are heart-shaped to egg-shaped, 2 to 8 long, 1 to 4 wide, and taper at the base to a 6 to 12 long, winged leaf stalk. They are distinctly veined. Stem leaves are numerous, on shorter stalks, alternate, thin, lance-shaped to egg-shaped, with pointed tips. Lower stem leaves are 2 to 5½ long, and to 2¾ wide, becoming gradually smaller as they ascend the stem. The uppermost leaves are greatly reduced in size and are attached to the stem without a leaf stalk. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is is a small, branched cluster at the end of the stems. The cluster is on a hairy stalk.

The flowers are trumpet-shaped, downward hanging, and to ½ long. There are 5 petals that are purplish pink when in bud, gradually turning light blue as they unfold. They are fused at the base into a tube that flares outward at the tip with 5 shallow lobes. The expanded portion of the corolla (limb) is 1.2 to 1.6 times as long as the tube. The individual flowers are never subtended with leafy bracts.

The fruit is 0 to 4 wrinkled nutlets per flower.




12 to 40


Flower Color




Similar Species


Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is a shorter, hairless, often colonial plant with larger, showier flowers. It reaches no more than 26 in height. The stems and leaves are hairless. Upper stem leaves have rounded tips. The flowers are ¾ to 1 long. The corolla tube is longer than the limb.


Moist. Woods.




June to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Boraginales (borages)  


Boraginaceae (borage)  
  Subfamily Cynoglossoideae  
  Tribe Asperugeae  


Mertensia (bluebell)  
  Section Mertensia  
  Species Mertensia paniculata (tall bluebell)  

Subordinate Taxa






Mertensia palmeri

Mertensia pilosa


Common Names


northern bluebells

northern lungwort

tall bluebells

tall mertensia













Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



In flowers, the expanded portion of a petal, or the expanded part of a corolla, above the throat.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.


Winged leaf stalk

A leaf stalk with a leaf-like or membrane-like extension along both sides.

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