Tall Bluebells – Mertensia paniculata

Alaska Wildflowers | Purple

bluebell flowers with a butterfly

Tall Bluebells

Mertensia paniculata

Alt. Names:
Languid lady
Chiming bells
Northern bluebells

Alaska subspecies:
Mertensia paniculata var. alaskana
Alaska tall bluebells

Mertensia paniculata var. eastwoodiae
Eastwood’s bluebells

Mertensia paniculata var. paniculata
Tall bluebells

Genus: Mertensia Roth (bluebells)
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage family)
Order: Lamiales

Duration: Perennial

Uses: The flower are edible raw and the leaves are edible raw or cooked

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Diagram of Mertensia paniculata from USDA database*

Identification and Information

The tall bluebell is a plant named after the shape and color of the flower produced. The bluebell has many long stems, branching off into several racemes of the hanging, funnel-like, tubular, blue-violet flower. The flowers form from pink buds and sometimes remain slightly pink. The tube of the flower is shorter than the bell. Flowers grow into a small, green fruit capsule.

The leaves are hairy and dark green. They are lanceolate and tapered, round at the base and 4-13 cm (1.5-5 in) in length. Basal leaves are larger than leaves higher up.

Distribution and Habitat

Mertensia paniculata is native to Alaska, most of Canada, and many northern lower 48 states. It’s mostly present in temperate forests in part shade or shade in moist soil.

Many similar flowers go by the common name bluebell, spanning numerous genera and extend over much of the northern hemisphere.


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, Pratt, Verna E. pg 3
Mertensia paniculata  (Aiton) G. Don, ITIS Database
Mertensia paniculata (Aiton) G. Don tall bluebells, USDA Database
Mertensia paniculata (Northern Bluebells), Minnesota Wildflowers: a field guide to the flora of Minnesota
Mertensia paniculata – (Aiton.)G.Don., Plants For A Future

*Diagram: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 83. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society

Blog Comments

Hi from Whitehorse. Tall Bluebells grow wild everywhere around here. My dog loved eating the leaves, I suspect because they taste fishy, which I could confirm by tasting them myself. Now that the German Shepherd has passed away after 12 years, the Tall Bluebells in the yard are more numerous than ever, they seem to be sprouting up everywhere (maybe also because many Spruce were cut down opening up the yard) BUT they are suffering from some pest/illness causing all their leaves to turn grey.
I’ve looked allover the web, every site says the don’t suffer from anything .
Would you have any thoughts?

It’s really hard to say for sure, so many things could cause it. If it looks like the grey coloration is powdery, it could be mildew or mold. It’s also very possible that there is now too much sunlight if the spruce have recently been cut down; that kind of environmental stress can cause leaf discoloration. The other possibilities are nutrient deficiencies or pests like aphids. Sorry I can’t be more help, but those are my thoughts!

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