Polemonium reptans L. - Jacob's Ladder

Polemonium reptans plant

Family - Polemoniaceae

Stems - From a small crown and fleshy roots, erect, multiple from the base, glabrous, hollow, greenish or with a reddish tinge, to +50cm tall, herbaceous, branching.

Polemonium reptans stem

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate, odd-pinnate, to +20cm long. Rachis and petiole winged from decurrent leaf tissue. Leaflets elliptic-ovate, entire, acute, glabrous, sessile, with 3 main veins, silver-green below, dull green above, opposite to alternate.

Polemonium reptans leaf

Inflorescence - Terminal and axillary bracteate panicles. Each division of infloresence subtended by a single small foliaceous bract. Pedicels and peduncles densely short glandular pubescent. Pedicels to 5mm long.

Flowers - Corolla lilac to blue, funnelform, 5-lobed, 1.3cm long, glabrous. Lobes rounded at apex, 6-7mm broad and long. Stamens 5, adnate near base of corolla tube, alternate with the corolla lobes. Filaments 6-7mm long, glabrous, white, floccose at the base. Anthers white, 2mm long. Style -1cm long, white, glabrous. Stigma 3-lobed. Ovary green, spherical, 1.3mm long, 1mm in diameter, 3-locular, with a large nectary at base. Placentation axile. Calyx tube campanulate, 3mm long, densely glandular puberulent, 5-lobed. Lobes acute, 2-3mm long.

Polemonium reptans calyxCalyx.

Polemonium reptans flowers

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Rich low woods, thickets at the base of bluffs, moist ground near streams.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This species can be found nearly throughout Missouri in the habitats mentioned above. The plant is quite showy in flower and would do well as a cultivated species.
Traditionally, the plant (roots mostly) was used by natives for a variety of ailments from bronchitis to snakebites.

Photographs taken off the MKT Trail, Columbia, MO., 4-15-04.


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