Mertensia humilis
Author: Rydb.

Rocky Mountain bluebells

Boraginaceae (borage family)

Close up of Mertensia humilis by Bernadette Kuhn

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G2
State rank: S1
Federal protection status: None
State protection status: None

Description and Phenology

Mertensia humilis: artwork in progress

General description: Perennial plants, 4-20 cm. tall, with blue flowers. Basal leaves are ovate to oblong-lanceolate, and petioled; cauline leaves are oblong-lanceolate, and sessile, or nearly so. Leaves are glabrous (or mostly glabrous), pustulose (but not supporting hairs), and rather thick. Inflorescence is congested with flowers 2-6 mm long (Harrington 1954, Ackerfield 2011).

Look Alikes: Distinguished from other species in northcentral Colorado by its leaves that are glabrous, or pustulate, but not supporting hairs (Ackerfield 2012).

Phenology: Flowers May-June (Ackerfield 2012, Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012).


Habitat of Mertensia humilis by Susan Spackman Panjabi

Sagebrush meadows (Ackerfield 2012, Weber and Wittmann 2012). Associated species include: Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Comandra umbellata, Achnatherum hymenoides, Chrysothamnus spp., Linum lewisii, and Sphaeralcea coccinea (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012).

Elevation Range: 5,269 - 9,564 feet (1,606 - 2,915 meters)


Colorado endemic: No
Global range: This species is known from five counties in Wyoming (USDA, NRCS 2012) and three counties in Colorado (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012).
State range: Known from Grand, Jackson and Larimer counties in Colorado.
Distribution of Mertensia humilis in Colorado according to mapped land ownership/management boundaries (CNHP 2012, COMaP v9 ).

Distribution of Mertensia humilis in Colorado

Threats and Management Issues

Summary results of an analysis of the status of Mertensia humilis based on several ranking factors. This species was concluded to be “Weakly Conserved”. From Rondeau et al. 2011.

No threats have been documented.


    • Ackerfield, J. 2012. The Flora of Colorado. Colorado State University Herbarium. 433 pp.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2009. The Sixth Annual Colorado Rare Plant Symposium: G2G3 Plants of North and Central Colorado. Symposium Minutes. Available on-line
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2012. Biodiversity Tracking and Conservation System. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
    • Dorn, R.D. 1992. Vascular plants of Wyoming, 2nd edition. Mountain West Publishing, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
    • Harrington, H.D. 1954. Manual of the plants of Colorado. Sage Press, Chicago. 666 pp.
    • Kartesz, J., and the Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 1998. A Synonymized Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.
    • Lavender, A.E., M.M. Fink, S.E. Linn, D.M. Theobald. 2011. Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection v9 Database. Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Geospatial Centroid, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. (30 September).
    • Neely, B., S. Panjabi, E. Lane, P. Lewis, C. Dawson, A. Kratz, B. Kurzel, T. Hogan, J. Handwerk, S. Krishnan, J. Neale, and N. Ripley. 2009. Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy, Developed by the Colorado Rare Plant conservation Initiative. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado, 117 pp.
    • Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
    • USDA NRCS. 2011. The PLANTS Database. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service [USDA, NRCS]. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Available online: Accessed 2011.
    • USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
    • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 555 pp.

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