Thursday, April 5, 2012

Going Native: Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium reptans L., also known as American Greek Valerian or Abscess Root is one of our native wild flowers that blooms in April and May. It is a perennial herb belonging to the Phlox family.

Jacob's Ladder grows in shade in moist soil and will go dormant if it becomes too dry. I find mine will take a little sun (in moist soil) in my Northern garden. Mine spreads nicely without being a brute, and I always welcome any new volunteers. Mostly its blooms are a beautiful blue or pink. I also have a white variety. Clusters of these blooms rise above on thin stalks from the base of the plant.

Jacob's Ladder is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bees. It is especially valuable to bumble bees and has been identified by beekeepers and pollination biologists as an important pollen or nectar source (honey plant) so I am happy to have it my garden.

P. Reptans L. is used in herbal medicine for its diaphoretic, astringent and expectorant qualities. An infusion of its roots is considered useful in battling coughs, colds, bronchitis and laryngitis. It may also be used to treat the bites of venomous snakes and insects.

Its leaves are beautiful as well and this plant is called Jacob's Ladder because of its successive pairs of leaflets. Mine are just beginning to wake up. I find Jacob's Ladder pairs nicely with astilbes, ferns and hostas. I am letting mine grow as a ground cover all along the Woodland Edge. If you live in the Eastern half of North America from Canada down to Georgia consider adding this native to a shady spot in your garden if you haven't already.

Sources: Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, Botanical


  1. I should move some to the wetter areas out back with some sun..right now mine is in the rain wall garden that gets afternoon sun and lots of moisture...great plant I love!

  2. Another plant to add to the garden. Thank you for sharing the information.


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