Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) is one of our native, ephemeral wildflowers. It grows in rich, open woodlands throughout much of the eastern U.S. It is a relatively short plant, only growing to around a foot tall. The leaves are compound and are said to resemble a ladder, thus the common name. The blue, bell-shaped flowers form in loose clusters on stalks.
Like other spring, ephemeral wildflowers, Jacob’s ladder blooms before the trees have fully leafed out. In Kentucky, that translates to April and May. Honey bees and many different species of native bees will visit Jacob’s ladder to collect nectar and pollen. (In Illinois, there is a species of mining bee that only collects pollen from Jacob’s ladder to feed its young.) The flowers are also sometimes visited by nectar-seeking butterflies.
Jacob’s ladder is a perennial that will form clumps through self-seeding. It can be grown as a native wildflower in semi-shady garden settings with medium to moist soil. For those interested in creating pollinator gardens, especially those focused on bees, this is a good, early-blooming option to consider in areas where some of the more well-known, prairie-based species of wildflowers won’t grow.
This article was part of Shannon’s original Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog which evolved into the blog for Backyard Ecology.
Backyard Ecology: Exploring Nature in Your Backyard
Nature isn’t just “out there.” It’s all around us, including right outside our doors. Hi, my name is Shannon Trimboli, and I am the host of Backyard Ecology. I live in southcentral Kentucky and am a wildlife biologist, educator, author, beekeeper, and owner of a nursery specializing in plants for pollinators and wildlife conservation. I invite you to join me as we ignite our curiosity and natural wonder, explore our yards and communities, and improve our local pollinator and wildlife habitat. Learn more or subscribe to my email list at www.backyardecology.net.