Clifty Falls Wildflowers | Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder is another great little blue wildflower that grows at Clifty falls State Park  in Madison Indiana. I photographed these little beauties along trail one coming down from the old watchtower that overlooks the Ohio River.

According to Friends of the Wildflower Garden….

(Greek Valerian, Spreading Jacob’s Ladder). The Polemonium genus covers a large number of plants commonly known as “Jacob’s Ladder”. Polemonium reptans, while still referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder” is more correctly named “Greek Valerian” or “Spreading Jacob’s Ladder” as it can root from the stems. Greek Valerian is a native mostly erect perennial forb growing 8 to 20 inches high on slender stems that frequently recline. There is some branching near the top. Stems are light green but can be reddish green, usually smooth, with angled sides. The leaves are alternate and pinnately-divided into 7 to 17 oblong leaflets, each leaflet up to 1-1/2 inches long. A terminal leaflet creates the odd number of leaflets, which are medium green in color, with smooth edges, usually no hair on the upper surface, and usually not stalked. The upper leaves within the the inflorescence usually have only 3 to 5 leaflets, sometimes just a simple leaf. The underside of the leaflet is paler in color with some fine hair. The inflorescence is a loosely branched panicle with just a few flowers per branch, arising at the top of the stems. The flowers are bell shaped with 5 blue-violet petals that spread slightly. The calyx is light green, sometimes with reddish tints, sometime with fine hair. Its tip has five triangular teeth. There are five stamens with whitish filaments and pale yellow anthers. There are not exerted – not longer than the petals. The single style is longer and has a 3-parted tip. Seed: Fertile flowers produce a dry 3-chambered seed capsule with about 3 seeds in each chamber.

Habitat: Spreading Jacob’s Ladder grows in the rich soils of open woods, slopes, shaded banks. While it may tolerate full sun, it will do best in light shade to dappled sun such as under a high tree canopy. For best bloom it needs soils that are moist to mesic. The stems may root if they lay on the ground. The root system is fibrous with a small crown. It also spreads by reseeding. Names: The species name Polemonium is a bit obscure but thought to have a reference back to the Greek philosopher Polemon. The species name, reptans, refers to having creeping or rooting stems. The name ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is an old biblical reference to the leaflets forming ‘a ladder to heaven’. Comparisons: Several species are similar to P. reptans. P. occidentale, and P. vanbruntiae have brighter flowers with stamens exerted beyond the petals which are wider spreading. The garden variety of Jacob’s Ladder sometimes sold with the scientific name P. caeruleum and sometimes with the other scientific names and called “Greek Valerian” or “Jacob’s Ladder” has fewer narrower leaves, blue flowers and seed capsules without stalks.

Now here is the image of the Jacob’s Ladder, hope you find the description and image helpful in your next wildflower hike or photographic endeavor.



jacob's ladder 1 2014 eagle hollow road


10 thoughts on “Clifty Falls Wildflowers | Jacob’s Ladder

  1. Vann Helms

    Wow Bernie! I admire your commitment to our wildflowers, especially the RARE ones. I look forward to looking through your blog. You have been one busy guy… Vann Helms


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