In Bloom: Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob's Ladder in Bloom

By Suzanne Wodek

Commonly called creeping Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium reptans is a native herbaceous perennial wildflower that naturally occurs in rich, moist woods and along stream banks. The genus name comes from the Greek name polemonion originally applied to a medicinal plant associated with Polemon of Cappadocia, a region in Central Turkey.

The plant’s mounding form grows up to 12 inches tall. The light blue flowers are bell-shaped and grow to three-fourths of an inch long in a loose cluster. Pinnately or featherlike compound leaves with oval leaflets are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, hence the common name. Native Americans used the root as a medicine to cause vomiting in cases of poising.

This plant prefers light shade or dappled sun with loamy soil, decaying organic matter and mesic conditions, meaning it needs a moderate or well-balanced supply of moisture. Jacob’s Ladder is not aggressive and is at home in rock gardens, naturalized areas and woodland gardens or in your native plant garden.

The nectar and pollen of the flowers primarily attract bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, little carpenter bees and mason bees. Butterflies, skippers and moths are also attracted to the nectar. The larvae of two moths, Coleophorapolemoniella and Scrobipalpula polemoniella, mine the leaves. An aphid, Nasonovia hottesi, will suck the sap of this plant.

April Events at The Botanical Gardens

  • Annual Spring Wildflower Walk with Dr. David Clarke on Saturday, April 8, from 9:30–11:30 a.m.
  • Spring Tree ID with Ron Lance on Sunday, April 23, from 2–4 p.m.

Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes, which are $12 for members; $17 for nonmembers. For more information, call 828.252.5190.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Check for a variety of education programs this month.

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