In April 1776, thomas Jefferson provided “a bluish colored, funnel-formed flower in lowgrounds in bloom,” in one of the faster entries that his garden book. Jefferson certainly wasn’t the first person to become enthralled by the unexplained beauty the Mertensia virginica and also he wasn’t the last either. Mertensia virginica, an ext commonly called Virginia Bluebells have recorded the hearts of numerous year after ~ year in beforehand spring v their blue trumpet-shaped blooms. In northern Virginia alone, there are not one, but two festivals committed entirely come bluebells: the Bluebell Festival in ~ Merrimac Farm and also the Bluebells in ~ the bending Festival. Hmm, maybe we need to start one here!


Mertensia virginica’s buds emerge pink and turn blue as they open up up. Picture by Tom Hennessy.

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What room Virginia Bluebells?

Scientific Name:

Mertensia virginica

Common Names:

Virginia bluebells, Lungwort Oysterleaf, Virginia Cowslip, Old females Bonnets


The plants are one- come two-feet-tall. The leaves room smooth and also oval-shaped with a sprouting with a deep violet color prior to mellowing out into a blue-ish green color. The trumpet-shaped flowers bloom in clusters close to the top of the stem. The buds change from pink to purple to blue as they bloom, although sometimes you might see a pink or white bloom.

Bloom Time:

Flowering season different from March to June. Ours space blooming now! The blooms only last two to 3 weeks before becoming dormant again. This is why castle are dubbed spring ephemerals.

Growing Conditions:

Virginia bluebells like moist, well-off wetlands in shaded or partly shaded areas, yet can tolerate open areas and also can additionally tolerate dry warm for a couple of years before dying. Bluebells take benefit of the sunny areas in forests before the trees sheet out.


The nectar is in ~ in a pipe inside the flower so the key pollinators room bumblebees and butterflies with lengthy proboscises to with the nectar.

Native plant Status:

Most of the eastern fifty percent of the unified States and Canada.


Virginia bluebells space a spring ephemeral — your blooms will just last a few weeks therefore make certain to gain them while girlfriend can. Picture by Tom Hennessy.

Why is Mertensia virginica Special?

One an enig to the bluebell’s charm is in its surname — normally blue flowers space so rare that only 10 percent the 280,000 flowering tree species global have blue blooms. The subtle transition from powdery pink sprout to incandescence blue flowers make Virginia bluebells all the much more enchanting. Actually, this kind of color adjust is relatively common because that the Boraginaceae (borage family). Bluebell relatives, Myosotis spp. (Forget-Me-Nots) and also Pulmonaria spp. (Lungwort) both change colors over the food of blooming, together well. The color adjust is resulted in by a transition in the pH or mountain of the petals over time.

These tree are exceptionally adept at forming colonies on their very own in the best location. They have the right to make for a beautiful surprise when you’re walking through the woods and suddenly stumble throughout a big bluebell lined trail. In the early on summer, together the tree is walk dormant, every bloom will shed its petals and produce four small seeds. The seeds space released naturally once ripened. This self-sowing seeds can spread especially easily if lugged away along a riverbank after ~ flooding. Bluebells additionally boast an secret rhizome system. This permits them to store energy to grow and also spread.

As both casual enjoyers that nature and also gardeners, it’s an extremely important to respect the native wildflower standing of Virginia bluebells through leaving lock undisrupted in the wild. If you’re purchasing bluebells, you re welcome take the moment to ensure the they were nursery propagated and also not wild-collected.

Some funny Facts around Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica is in bloom now. You can discover them in the Flagler Garden right here at Lewis Ginter botanical Garden or along the trails of the James flow Park System.


The pipeline of Mertensia virginica are smooth and also oval-shaped v a sprouting with a deep purple color prior to mellowing out into a blue-ish green color. Image by Tom Hennessy.

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Maureen McNabb is a Public relations & Marketing Intern at Lewis Ginter botanical Garden v a lift in journalism, videography and also multimedia storytelling. She"s interested in ar building, empowering individuals and also finding compelling story that often tend to get lost in ~ the enlarge picture.