Jacob’s Ladder

Polemonium reptans
Polemoniaceae (phloxes)

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.

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.
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