Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Wild Blue Phlox - Phlox divaricata   L.
Members of Polemoniaceae:
Members of Phlox with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Polemoniaceae
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DistributionScattered in the Mountains, mainly in the central and southern counties; only a few widely scattered locations in the western Piedmont and northwestern Coastal Plain (along the Roanoke River). Quite a few additional records are found in iNaturalist, but as this species is frequently planted or can escape from gardens, the editors choose not to use this website to populate counties from the central Piedmont eastward.

This is a very widespread species, primarily in the Midwest and Mideast; ranges from NY and MN south to western FL and eastern TX. Very scarce south of VA (i.e., in NC, SC, GA, and FL).
AbundanceUncommon (but locally abundant at least in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to infrequent, and rather local, in the Mountains. Very rare in the western Piedmont, accidental (if native) in the eastern Piedmont (Orange County), and locally uncommon along the Roanoke River in Northampton and Halifax counties, near the VA border. This is a Watch List species.
HabitatThis species requires rich, high pH soils in the state. In the Mountains it is mainly limited to Rich Cove Forests, and in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain to Basic Mesic Forests.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis is an easy Phlox to identify, as it is the only one in the state with blue-tinged flowers. It can be very familiar if you spend time in the Great Smoky Mountains, but farther eastward it is poorly known to most people other than from gardens. It has an erect stem to a somewhat decumbent one at the base, growing from rhizomes and thus occurring in clumps/stands. The stem is normally about 1-1.5 feet tall, usually with just 4 nodes -- with paired opposite leaves. Each leaf is about 2 inches long, ovate to lanceolate, with an acute tip. The flower cluster at the top of the stem is small in this species, a terminal cyme with only a few flowers, but each is lavender-blue in color, as opposed to rose to pink in all other Phlox species in the state. Each flower is tubular with 5 flaring lobes, about 1-inch long and across. Unlike most members of the family, the anthers and style are shorter than the tube and are thus not visible from the front of the flower. This species is surprisingly absent over nearly all of the Piedmont's rich slopes with Basic Mesic Forests, yet it can be found farther east along the Roanoke River in the upper Coastal Plain.
Taxonomic CommentsSome references name varieties or subspecies for the species; Weakley (2024) does, and shows that var. laphamii occurs in NC, but as a non-native taxon.

Other Common Name(s)Blue Phlox, Eastern Blue Phlox, Woodland Phlox, Timber Phlox
State RankS3
Global RankG5
State Status[W1]
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. Sorriesame data Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
B.A. SorriePhoto taken at Cloudland Canyon SP, northwestern GA, 2015. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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