The first flowers of Jacob’s Ladder sway on the breezes of early Spring. I found a few specimens near the nature center at Wildwood Park in the middle of April and they were just beginning to bloom.
It’s actually a new plant for me. 🙂 I did see one at another park several years ago, but it was past blooming and I just wasn’t sure of the identification back then. I should go back there to take a look around to see if I could find it near that creek.
Wildwood Park is situated on the northern edge of Harrisburg, PA and offers a convenient place to walk in a nature setting. Many dog walkers and mommies with babes in strollers take advantage of the wide trail that runs all along the edge of Wildwood Lake. The boardwalks are wonderful places to see ducks and other waterfowl and migrant birds.
A spillway in the southern end of the lake controls the water level of Paxton Creek which runs through the city. It’s not too far from the spillway where the Jacob’s Ladder grows — look between the spillway and the Nature Center.
Clusters of light blue flowers nodding in the wind caught my attention. The white anthers at the stamen tips were quite noticeable, although you had to bend down to peer into the flowers.
Each bloom on its own little stalk had five rounded petals that were grouped together into a bell shape by the five-pointed calyx at the base of the flower.
The whole plant was about a foot tall and seemed to be a little floppy, but the flowers were held above the leaves.
The foliage appears rather symmetrical, meaning the leaves are pinnate with opposite leaflets. The paired oblong leaflets might be about an inch long with smooth edges and pointed tips. Each leaf is terminated with a single leaflet.
The leaves are so uniform that they resemble the rungs of a ladder. Indeed, that is how the plant got its common name, Jacob’s Ladder, as it was taken to represent the Stairway to Heaven of the Biblical Jacob.
As a member of the Phlox Family, Polemoniaceae, Jacob’s Ladder is a common name given to several members of the genus Polemonium of which there are 24 species. The one photographed here, Greek Valerian, P. reptans, appears to be the most common one in Eastern North America.
If you want to look for a Jacob’s Ladder near you, its habitat is moist woods and bottom lands or glades in more mountainous regions.
(Photos taken 13 April 2016. Click on any small image for a larger view.)