Plants and Animals

Mertensia paniculata Northern Bluebell

species photo
Tyler Bassett
species photo
Tyler Bassett
species photo
Tyler Bassett
species photo
Tyler Bassett
species photo
Tyler Bassett

Key Characteristics

Delicate herb from moist and rich forests in the northwestern Upper Peninsula; from 30 to 100 cm tall; stiff hairs on calyx and leaves, and often pedicels and stems; calyx lobes acute; petals 10 to 15 mm long, broader than long, glabrous, blue (pink in bud or anthesis), with lobes obtuse or rounded.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: SNR - Not ranked


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger 1 1973
Baraga 3 1959
Gogebic 1 1920
Houghton 4 1950
Iron 1 1991
Keweenaw 19 2017
Marquette 2 1994
Ontonagon 7 2019

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


This species is limited to the northwestern Upper Peninsula, where it is primarily found in conifer and hardwood-conifer swamps and rich upland forests and occasionally occurs in hardwood stands. In swamps, it may often be found on drier, sphagnum hummocks, while in upland forests it is generally found in cool, moist microhabitats, including drainages, shaded moist depressions, wet seepage areas, near or along rivers, and areas of filtered light.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum), speckled alder (Alnus incana), sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina), northern shorthusk (Brachyelytrum aristosum), wild marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), sedges (Carex arctata, C. brunnescens, C. crinita, C. gynandra, C. intumescens, C. pedunculata, C. scabrata), small enchanter’s-nightshade (Circaea alpina), goldthread (Coptis trifolia), broad-leaved aster (Eurybia macrophylla), Canadian fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis), false spikenard (Maianthemum raceomosum), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), broad-leaved twayblade (Neottia convallarioides), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), northern beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis), downy solomon’s-seal (Polygonatum pubescens), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), zig-zag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum), bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), and marsh violet (Viola cucullata).

Management Recommendations

Protect occupied habitat by maintaining the overstory, reducing erosion, and ensuring a continuous cool groundwater supply to maintain microsite conditions. Maintain healthy intact, mature forests and avoid clear cutting. Minimize development and fragmentation. When possible, leave large tracts of unharvested forests and allow natural processes to operate unhindered.

Survey Methods

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

  • Meander search

    • Survey Period: From first week of May to second week of July


Survey References

  • Elzinga, C.L., D.W. Salzer, and J.W. Willoughby. 1998. Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, Denver. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1. 477pp.
  • Goff, G.F., G.A. Dawson, and J.J. Rochow. 1982. Site examination for Threatened and Endangered plant species. Environmental Management 6(4): 307-316
  • Nelson, J.R. 1984. Rare Plant Field Survey Guidelines. In: J.P. Smith and R. York. Inventory of rare and endangered vascular plants of California. 3rd Ed. California Native Plant Society, Berkeley. 174pp.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1986. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques For Impact Assessment. Natural Areas Journal 5(3):18-30.
  • Nelson, J.R. 1987. Rare Plant Surveys: Techniques for Impact Assessment. In: Conservation and management of rare and endangered plants. Ed. T.S. Elias. California Native Plant Society, Sacramento. 8pp.

Technical References

  • Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Second edition. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 910pp.
  • Gray, A. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany; eighth ed. Van Nostrand Reinghold, New York. 1632pp.
  • Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the vascular plants of Northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx. 937pp.
  • Voss, E.G., and A.A. Reznicek. 2012. Field Manual of Michigan Flora. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI. 1008 pp.