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  Photos © Kim Hosen; Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, Nokesville VA; August 2008
Text by Samantha Bohn

Jacob's Ladder
Polemonium reptans
Phlox Family, Polemoniaceae

Jacob’s ladder gets its common name from the shape that its leaves make on the stem, as it looks like the rungs of a ladder. It is native to, and can be found in the Eastern United States as well as parts of the Midwest and Canada.

It prefers moist, organic, well drained soils and partial shade, although it can tolerate full sun. In the wild, it is often found in wet wooded areas, by paths through the woods, and along streams or rivers. While it is often found in more natural and higher quality habitats, it can do well in woodland, rock, or native plant gardens.

This plant generally grows anywhere between one to one and a half feet tall, and produces light blue, bell-shaped flowers. Each of the flowers contains 5 rounded petals as well as 5 stamens and a pistil.

While Jacob’s ladder is ideal for attracting many types of fauna, it is particularly good at attracting many different species of bees. Bees such as honeybees, bumblebees, cuckoo bees and Halictid bees are some examples, and they all use this plant as a source of nectar and pollen. Jacob’s ladder also has a special relationship with the Andrenid bees, as this species is a specialist pollinator of this plant.

In addition to bees, the flowers also attract various species of butterflies and moths, and the leaves can provide a food source to a few different kinds of moth larvae.