Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Creeping Jacob's-ladder - Polemonium reptans   L.
Members of Polemoniaceae:
Members of Polemonium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Solanales » Family Polemoniaceae
DistributionBarely ranges into the state, found mainly in the extreme northern Piedmont, in Rockingham and Stokes counties. Also in the extreme northern Mountains (Ashe to Avery counties), if natural there.

This is a mostly Midwestern and Ohio River Valley species, found from NY and MN south to northern GA and OK.
AbundanceUncommon in a small area of northwestern Rockingham County, near the Mayo River, but rare to very rare elsewhere in its limited range. Believed to not be native in Ashe County owing to the location being from an old homesite. This is a State Threatened species.
HabitatThis species requires high pH, rich soils in NC. It is found in rich bottomlands or on lower slopes in Basic Mesic Forests or Rich Cove Forests.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits in June.
IdentificationThis species has several to numerous basal leaves that are pinnately divided, often about 7 pairs plus a terminal leaflet, each leaflet elliptical and about 1.5 inches long and 2/3 as wide. The flowering stem is often branched above, and reaches about 10 inches tall, with a few alternate leaves that are also pinnately divided, often small and with fewer segments than on the basal leaves. At the tips of the stem and branches grow the flower clusters, each consisting of several mainly blue to lavender-blue flowers that often dangle in bud but are erect in full bloom. [RAB (1968) says the flowers are "pale lavender or white", but this is incorrect; they are essentially blue or light blue.] Each flower is bell-shaped, about 2/5-inch long, with 5 flaring corolla lobes. This rare species should be noticeable in early spring by the numerous basal leaves that are pinnately divided; when in bloom later in mid-spring, the clusters of blue, bell-shaped flowers cannot be overlooked.
Taxonomic CommentsWeakley (2018) assigns varieties, and it is the nominate one -- P. reptans var. reptans -- that is present in NC.

Other Common Name(s)Spreading Jacob's-ladder, Jacob's-ladder, Greek-valerian. There are numerous species of Polemonium in North America, and the general group name is "Jacob's-ladder". Though some references use the idiosyncratic name of Greek-valerian, it is best to go with a name used by some references as "xxxxxx Jacob's-ladder", and it seems a toss-up between Creeping Jacob's-ladder and Spreading Jacob's-ladder. The word "reptans" in Latin means "creeping", and thus the editors are using this first name.
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State Status[T]
US Status
USACE-agcpFAC link
USACE-empFACU link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B. Wheeler2023-05-17 RockinghamPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieOutside of Huntington WV, April 2013. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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