Piece of the Park:

Mertensia virginica, “Virginia Blue Bells”

Mertensia virginica is in the Boraginacea family alongside Forget-me-nots and Lungwort. Commonly referred to as Virginia Bluebells, this erect, clump-forming perennial grows 1-2 feet tall and features loose clusters of pendulous, trumpet-shaped blue flowers (up to 1” long), which bloom in early spring. Flower buds are pink, and flowers emerge with a pinkish cast before turning blue and fading to purple. All of these sultry colors are visible at once on the same plant and are quite frankly swoon-inducing. April and May is the time to find them in the Park.

This perennial is considered a spring ephemeral, meaning that it offers a short-lived display that appears and disappears within a small window of time. The charming leaves start to turn brown, and by the time you think of removing them they are gone…scattered to the four winds and claimed by the soil. Virginia Bluebells are perfect for the woodland garden, planted amongst ferns and the like that can take over the seemingly abandoned space for the remainder of the season. Bumble bees eagerly attempt to pollinate this gem, but are too heavy to perch on the bloom and get in there sufficiently. That leaves butterflies and moths with the task of pollinating this fast-spreading plant.

You can encounter the lovely Mertensia virginica scattered around 91st Street paths.

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