Blue Bells (Mertensia oblongifolia)

Blue bell flowers grow on mid to high mountain locations. Often found in wooded areas blanketing the floors of the forest. They are a spring flower that will come up as the snow is melting or when the snow is still falling in later winter and early spring. There are many varieties of Blue Bells (Mertensia) in the rocky mountains.

I have grown up calling them mountain blue bells but the more I research the more I see that this common name may be applied to many different varieties of blue bell. I’m not entirely certain of the variety I’ve taken photos of here honestly. I’ll leave some links below for you to review.

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Notes from my research
They have always been mountain bluebells to me but it seems, as is the case with most common names that there is much more to this plant genus. There are many varieties that all belong to the family Mertensia. Some seem to have slight differences and unfortunately many of the resources available in books and on the internet do not give enough clear information and images to help verify. I feel this is a fairly big occurrence with wild plants. Those who know how to identify them don’t seem interested or able to provide us common folk with enough clear details to know what we are looking at when in the field.
I’ll do my best to continue to learn more about each of these plants and to share that information here with you when I do find it.
Edible parts
The entire plant is edible. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads and sandwiches. You can eat any part of the plant raw alone or added to a salad or other recipe. I have not eaten them cooked but one gentleman who taught me early on stated that this flower was one of his favorites.
Mountain blue bells are found throughout the western USA. From my observation, they are usually a sub-alpine plant.
My experience:
This flower is one of the most beautiful in our mountains. They are generally very prolific growing in large groups when they are found. They grow low to the ground.
I find the flavor mild and the texture a little gelatinous. It is a simple and mild treat to enjoy when in the mountains. I have not eaten them in any quantity.
Look alike plants
I am not aware of other plants that look like bluebells other than the different varieties of Mertensia that exist.

Responsible harvest
When you find a large plot of this plant, I would not be concerned about eating or harvesting what you desire but as always, be mindful of others. Leave plenty and harvest only what you are sure you will eat.
How to eat them
Add the green leaves and the beautiful lavender flowers to stir fries, salads and sandwiches and even omelets! I like to chop most of my wild greens when I steam them or saute them.

*No warnings known for this plant.

Additional Resources:

Last Night’s Wild Dinner


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