Scientific Name: Mertensia virginica (M. pulmonarioides)

Common Name: Virginia Bluebell, Virginia Cowslip, Mountain Cowslip, Roanoke Bells

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."[1] Long before Jefferson's observation, the North American flower had been introduced to Britain. According to Philip Miller's 1754 edition of The Gardener's Dictionary, Reverend John Banister sent seeds from Virginia to England in the 1600s, but the plants produced from Banister's seeds had eventually died out.[2] 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.

Further Sources

In Bloom at Monticello: Vrginia Bluebell


  1. ^ Betts, Garden Book, 1. Manuscript and transcription at the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, 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. ^ Philip Miller, Gardener's Dictionary, vol. III (London: Printed for the author, 1754).

Agriculture & Gardening