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Mertensia virginica - Virginia Bluebell
Common Name: Virginia Bluebell, Virginia Cowslip, Mountain Cowslip, Roanoke Bells
Scientific Name: Mertensia virginica (M. pulmonarioides)
On April 16, 1766, in one of the earliest observations in his Garden Book, Thomas Jefferson noted "a bluish colored, funnel-formed flower in lowgrounds in bloom." Long before Jefferson's observation, the flower had been introduced to Britain. According to Philip Miller's 1754 edition of Gardener's Dictionary, seeds had come from a Reverend John Banister in the 1600s, but the plants had died out. In the 1730s, Williamsburg's John Custis sent roots to his patron, Peter Collinson.
The Virginia Bluebell is a hardy, North American, early spring-flowering perennial with delicate, terminal clusters of light pink buds, which open to flared, long-tubular, sky-blue to purple flowers.
- Center for Historic Plants
- 1. Betts, Garden Book, 1. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 69.
- 2. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1979), 139.