Jacob's Ladder
Polemonium pulcherrimum Hook

Collected along the Lolo Trail near Hungery Creek in Idaho Co., Idaho, on 27 Jun 1806.

Jacob's Ladder  has medium to bright green leaves that are finely divided into 17 to 27 lance-shaped leaflets. In the summer, thin stems bearing dense, terminal clusters of small, cup-shaped, lavender blue flowers shoot up. It grows 1 to 2 feet in height and produce pretty flowers during the spring and summer. The plant self-sows freely. It has finely divided foliage and a profusion of bell- to cup-shaped, purple-blue flowers with white or yellow throats, in late spring and summer. Jacob's ladder grows erect to 3 feet, is common in moist to dry high meadows, rocky slopes, middle elevations, and along streams. A sprawling low plant, it is abundant in dry shade of Spruce forests. It exudes a strong skunk odor when touched.  It is found in the Cascade-Sierra range, east to central Idaho, and western Montana.

Medicinal Uses
The herb is astringent and diaphoretic. It was formerly used internally in the treatment of a wide range of conditions ranging from headaches to fevers and epilepsy. The plant is harvested in the summer and dried for later use.

A very easily grown plant, it prefers a moist well-drained fertile soil in sun or semi-shade. Dislikes damp or heavy soils, though it tolerates alkaline conditions.

Plants are fairly short-lived in cultivation unless they are divided regularly and moved to fresh soil. They can self-sow to the point of nuisance, however and will also survive when growing in lush grass.

Division in early spring or early autumn. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. (PFAF)


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