Jacob’s Ladder

Polemonium reptans

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Photo of Jacob's ladder plant showing leaves and flowers
Julianna Schroeder
Family

Polemoniaceae (phloxes)

Description

A low, weak-stemmed, often sprawling, herbaceous perennial. Flowers in loose terminal clusters, bell-shaped, ¾ inch long, 5-lobed, with short tubes, light blue to blue lavender. Stamens 5, with white anthers; style tip divided into three parts. Blooms April-June. Leaves alternate, pinnately (“feather”) compound with smooth, ovate, opposite leaflets. The basal leaves are on long petioles.

Size

Height: to 15 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Usually found in moist, wooded bottomlands, near streams, or at the bases of slopes and in wooded valleys. Jacob’s ladder is a good native plant for flower gardens; it prefers rich, medium-moist soil and partial shade. Make sure you obtain plants from an ethical native wildflower nursery, and not from the wild.

Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for the far northeastern counties.

Human connections

This colorful flower also offers the gardener interesting, ladderlike leaves. The foliage gave it its common name, directly or indirectly referencing the story from Genesis 28.10-17: “And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.”

Ecosystem connections

Many types of bees are attracted to the nectar and pollen, and so are butterflies, skippers, moths, and flies.