July 21, 2017

Beach Bell

Mertensia maritima - Seaside bluebells

Mertensia maritima – Seaside bluebells | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Along Maine’s lengthy coastline, one can find a host of plants that grow only along the shore. That includes Mertensia maritima, also called seaside bluebells as well as oysterleaf or oyster plant. This diminutive native has a limited range in the United States, being common in Maine and Alaska but endangered in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It can grow up to 4 inches tall, with a spread perhaps double that, blossoming in late spring and into summer with those distinctive blue bells so common in the Mertensia genus. Go Botany says it also is edible, for Alaskan Eskimos ate the roots and leaves.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.