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Mertensia virginica

Mertensia virginica

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Lamiids
Ordo: Boraginales

Familia: Boraginaceae
Subfamilia: Cynoglossoideae
Tribus: Asperugeae
Genus: Mertensia
Species: Mertensia virginica

Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link

(Linnaeus, C.) Persoon, C.H. ex Link, J.H.F., Handbuch 1:580. 1829
USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]


International Plant Names Index. 2017. Mertensia virginica. Published online. Accessed: Oct. 25 2017.
The Plant List 2013. Mertensia virginica in The Plant List Version 1.1. Published online. Accessed: 2017 Oct. 25.
Tropicos.org 2017. Mertensia virginica. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 25 Oct. 2017.
Mertensia virginica – Taxon details on Encyclopedia of Life (EOL).
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Mertensia virginica in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
Mertensia virginica – Taxon details on Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
Mertensia virginica – Taxon details on National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Vernacular names
English: Virginia bluebells, Virginia cowslip, lungwort oysterleaf, Roanoke bells
français: Mertensie de Virginie
svenska: Pärlemorfjärva

Mertensia virginica (common names Virginia bluebells,[1] Virginia cowslip, lungwort oysterleaf, Roanoke bells) is a spring ephemeral plant with bell-shaped sky-blue flowers, native to eastern North America.


Virginia bluebells have rounded and gray-green leaves, borne on stems up to 24 in (60 cm) tall. They are petiolate at the bottom of the flower stem and sessile at the top.

Flowerbuds are pink. Flowers have five petals fused into a tube, five stamens, and a central pistil (carpel). They are borne in mid-spring in nodding spiral-shaped cymes at the end of arched stems. Flowers are usually blue, but white or pink 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[citation needed]. 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.[2]


Virginia bluebells had several uses in traditional Native American medicine, including as a pulmonary aid, tuberculosis treatment, and treatment for whooping cough (Cherokee,) root infusion antidote for treating poison, and root decoction venereal to treat venereal issues (Iroquois.) [4]. Native Americans believed a tonic made from this plant could help heal those who were under-the-weather. According to St. Olaf College in Minnesota, uses of Virginia bluebells have been studied but offer no scientific proof that this plant can be used for medicinal purposes.[5]

Mertensia virginica is edible, including the flowers. [6]


Mertensia virginica is the type species for the genus Mertensia and was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 as Pulmonaria virginica.[7] The genus Pulmonaria is today restricted to 19 species in the tribe Boragineae. When Albrecht Wilhelm Roth erected the genus Mertensia in 1797, he named the Virginia bluebell as Mertensia pulmonarioides, apparently unaware that Linnaeus had already named it in his Species Plantarum. Roth's name is a superfluous synonym and has been used in recent literature.[8]

USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Mertensia virginica". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
"RHS Plant Selector - Mertensia virginica". Retrieved 3 January 2021.
"AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 64. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
"BRIT - Native American Ethnobotany Database". naeb.brit.org. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
Nicole, Stoner (April 10, 2022). "Virginia Bluebells". UNIVERSITY of NEBRASKA–LINCOLN. Retrieved April 10, 2022.
"Virginia Bluebells". Forager Chef. 2021-04-17. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
Carl von Linné (Linnaeus). 1753. Species Plantarum 1:135. (see External links below)
James S. Pringle. 2004. "Nomenclature of the Virginia-bluebell, Mertensia virginica (Boraginaceae)". SIDA, contributions to botany 21(2):771-775.(see External links below)

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