Mertensia virginica is in gorgeous bloom in natural areas all around middle Tennessee.**
It's hard to believe, but, this is one wildflower not in my garden. Once upon a time there was a small, but, lovely stand that made me smile every spring. A dozen years ago we reworked the front garden path. We made it wider, built a small wall and had the workers place a beautiful boulder a few feet from the new path. It wasn't until the following spring, when I couldn't find any blooming Virginia bluebells that I realized that the boulder was sitting on top of them.
Look at that blue and pink! I know you'll agree with me, that's it's long past time to bring these beauties back to Clay and Limestone.
In the meantime, here's our March Wildflower Wednesday star.
I adore their water-colored beauty. The pink buds transition to shades of blue, with touches of lavender as they open. The nodding bells are perfectly complimented by the gray green leaves and stems (technically pendulate spiral-shaped cymes).
|source: Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man)|
|Creekside at Taylor Hollow|
They thrive in moist, woodland soil, damp river bottomlands and clearings in shaded forests. They're native to most of eastern North America.
A long-lived perennial, Virginia bluebells expands slowly to form beautiful clumps that return year after year. They're ephemerals and emerge early each spring, taking advantage of the rich, moist soil and full sunlight streaming through the bare branches of the deciduous trees. In the short period of time before the tree canopy emerges and blocks the sunlight, they must grow, leaf-out, flower, be pollinated, produce seeds and die back (retreat underground).
Amazing isn't it?
|Columbine, anemones, violets and other shade loving natives grow well alongside Virginia bluebells|
|Virginia Native Plant Society|
Dear readers, have you seen pollinators on your Virginia bluebells?
Borage family (Boraginaceae)
Type: Perennial, spring ephemeral
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7
Range: Eastern US and Canada; NY & s. Ont. to e. MN, s. to NC, AR & e. KS; naturalized northeastward
Spring ephemeral: emerges in late winter, yellows and disappears by June/July
Blooms: March through April
Habitat: moist bottomlands, clearings in moist woodlands
Flower:Terminal clusters of pendulous, trumpet-shaped pink, blue flowers
Size: They grow 18 inches tall and spread
Soil: moist, well drained soil, that's slightly acidic to neutral
Water: moist soil essential
Wildlife value: Faunal Associations: The flowers are cross-pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees (Anthophora spp., Synhalonia spp.), and mason bees (Osmia spp.); these insects obtain nectar and/or collect pollen. Other visitors of the flowers include the Giant Bee Fly (Bombylius major), butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths, including a hummingbird moth (Hemaris thysbe). This group of visitors suck nectar from the flowers. Halictid bees and Syrphid flies sometimes visit the flowers, but they are too small in size to be effective pollinators. In some areas, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has been observed to visit the flowers. White-Tailed Deer browse on the foliage occasionally during the spring. When this plant forms large colonies, it provides protective cover for many kinds of wildlife during the spring
I wish you all a peace filled spring and may your gardens bring you happiness and a respite from all that's happening.
** Most of these photos were taken at Taylor Hollow or at Edwin Warner Park on hikes and strolls and I hope they showcase this beautiful wildflower.
Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers from your part of the world. Don't worry if you have nothing in bloom, you can still showcase one of your favorites. You don't have to write anything, just share your wildflowers. The native plants I've chosen are adapted to the environment and conditions at Clay and Limestone and provide food, nesting and/or shelter for mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. Humans seem to appreciate it, too. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants; how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.