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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Oregon Bluebells - Mertensia bella

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S2S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank: 2
C-value: 6

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare in Montana, where it is known only from the Lolo National Forest. Some disturbance may be beneficial or at least tolerated. Mining activity occurs near one site though it is unknown if this has had any impact on M. bella. Additional monitoring of the populations is needed to determine trends.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Oregon Bluebells (Mertensia bella) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 01/04/2013
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    Score1-2 - Small to Moderate. Population size is imprecisely known but is believed to be >2,000 individuals and <100,000 individuals.

    CommentAvailable data varies widely in terms of number of individuals estimated.

    Range Extent

    Score1 - Peripheral, Disjunct or Sporadic Distribution in MT: Widespread species that is peripheral, disjunct or sporadically distributed within MT such that it occurs in <5% of the state (<7,500 sq. miles or the combined area of Beaverhead and Ravalli Counties) or is restricted to 4-5 sub-basins.

    CommentPeripheral in western Montana.

    Area of Occupancy

    Score3 - Very Low: Generally occurring in 3 or fewer Subwatersheds (6th Code HUC’s).

    Environmental Specificity

    Score0-1 - Low to Moderate.


    Score0-1 - Stable to Minor Declines:

    CommentTrends unknown, though populations are likely stable or experiencing only minor declines.


    Score1-2 - Medium to High.

    CommentThreats such as timber harvesting and mining have been considered in separate reviews though it is unclear to what extent if any negative impacts to the species or its habitat may result from these or other activities.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    Score1 - Moderate Vulnerability: Specific biological attributes, unusual life history characteristics or limited reproductive potential makes the species susceptible to extirpation from stochastic events or other adverse impacts to its habitat and slow to recover.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 7 to 11 total points scored out of a possible 19.

General Description
Oregon Bluebells is a perennial herb with solitary stems that arise from a bulb-like root and that are 10-40 cm tall. The ovate leaves are thin, entire-margined, evidently veiny, and 38 cm long. The lowermost leaves are reduced to membranous sheaths, while the others have progressively reduced petioles upwards on the stem. The herbage is mostly glabrous. The blue flowers are stalked and borne in open inflorescences at the top of the stem and in the axils of the upper leaves. The lower two-thirds of the 5 petals are united into a bell-shaped corolla that is 6-10 mm long. The calyx is 2-3 mm long and sparsely hairy.

Flowering in late May-June.

Diagnostic Characteristics
The bell-shaped flowers lack a distinctly constricted lower tubular portion separate from a flaring upper portion, distinguishing this species from all other Mertensia in our area.

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
Endemic to eastern OR, north ID, adjacent MT, disjunct in western OR. There is one location in Missoula County (Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 29

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Wet, seepy, open or partially shaded slopes in the montane and subalpine zones, often in mesic, forb dominated communities or openings in spruce-fir forests.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lichthardt, J.J. 1992. Report on the conservation status of Mertensia bella (Oregon bluebells) in Idaho. Unpublished report. Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Boise, Idaho 43 pp.
    • Lorain, C. C. 1988. Floristic history and distribution of coastal disjunct plants of the northern Rocky Mountains. M.S. thesis. College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow. 221 pp.
    • Roe, L.S. 1991. Status review of Mertensia bella, USDA Forest Service, Region 1, Lolo National Forest, Montana. Unpublished report to the Lolo National Forest. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Helena, MT. 27 pp.
    • Williams, L.O. 1937. A monograph of the genus Mertensia in North America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 14:17-159.
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Citation for data on this website:
Oregon Bluebells — Mertensia bella.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from