Polemonium reptans L.
Spreading Jacob’s ladder, creeping Jacob’s ladder, false Jacob’s ladder, abscess root, American Greek valerian, blue bells, stairway to heaven, sweatroot
Spreading Jacob’s ladder is a North American native. It prefers partial shade and rich, moist woods, and is often found along streambanks. The common name “Jacob’s ladder” refers to the neat pairs of opposite leaflets in the compound leaves, resembling a series of steps on a ladder, from a dream by the biblical Jacob.
Plants: These perennials are 6-18" (15-45 cm) tall, and somewhat branched. The rather weak stems sag under the weight of the leaves, sprawling across the ground. They are light or reddish green, somewhat angular, and hollow.
Leaves: Leaves are odd-pinnate and alternate, with 7-17 leaflets. Leaflets are ¾-1¼" (1.9-3.2 cm) × ¼-⅜" (6.3-10 mm), and oval-shaped (elliptic) to lance-shaped (lanceolate). Lower leaflets are attached by stems (petioles), but the stems shorten and disappear in the upper leaflets.
Flowers: Loose “blobs” or panicles of flowers are 1½-3" (3.8-7.6 cm) across. Additional groups of flowers are sometimes produced from leaf axils, and may be up to 6" (15 cm) long. Each flower is light blue, bell-shaped, with five petals fused at the base, and up to ⅝" (1.6 cm) across. (Rarely, flowers are lavendar, pink, purple, or white.) Flowers appear April-June.
Polemonium reptans on illinoiswildflowers.info
Polemonium reptans at Minnesota Wildflowers
Polemonium reptans on Discover Life
Polemonium reptans at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Polemonium reptans on www.lakeforest.edu
Polemonium reptans description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 5 Oct 2021.
Range: Zones 3-8: