Mountain Bluebells
Mertensia ciliata (James ex Torr.) G. Don
Family: Boraginaceae, Borage
Genus: Mertensia
Other names: broad-leaf bluebells
Nomenclature: ciliata = fringed with hairs
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant

General: perennial, stems numerous from a branched, woody base, 15-150 cm tall. Herbage hairless, or the leaves often with flat, stiff, short hairs, especially beneath.

Leaves: evidently veined, the basal ones, when present, elliptic to ovate, generally not cordate, long-stalked. Stem leaves alternate, only slightly reduced upward, narrowly elliptic or lance-elliptic to narrowly ovate, 3-15 cm long, 1-5 cm wide, tapering to the base, the lower stalked.

Flowers: blue, nodding, several in branched, open clusters. Calyx 1-3 mm long, cleft almost to the base, the lobes with rounded tip. Corolla 10-17 mm long, the limb 0.8-1.2 times as long as the tube, the tube with, or more often without, a ring of hairs below the middle within. Filaments attached at or shortly below the level of the fornices, broad and conspicuous, 1.5-3 mm long, anthers 1.2-2.2 mm long. Styles elongate, often shortly protruding from the corolla. June-August.

Fruits: nutlets, in fours, wrinkled, 2.5-5 mm long.


Stream banks, wet meadows, damp thickets, and wet cliffs, foothills to subalpine zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Also from CO, n. NM and CA to ID and OR.
Edible Uses

The flowers of mountain bluebells are edible raw. The leaves are edible raw or cooked. However, the leaves are rather hairy and are not so nice when eaten raw.

Medicinal Uses

The plant is galactogogue, and a tea of the plant was used by the Cheyenne Indians to increase the milk flow of nursing mothers. They also made a tea of the powdered root and used it to relieve the itching caused by smallpox and measles.

Sub taxa:

Our plants as described above belong to var. ciliata (James ex Torr.) G. Don.

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