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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Phlox divaricata L.

Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family)

Common Name:

wood phlox, wild blue phlox


Wood phlox is a fragrant native perennial of rich moist woods with filterd sun. It spreads by underground stems forming large patches that bloom in late spring. Ease of propagation and long lasting showy blooms make wood phlox popular in wildflower gardens.

Blue to violet flowers, about 2 cm across, are clustered at the end of a delicate hairy stem.  Flowers have 5 petals, united to form a long floral tube, with the stamens and pistil completely hidden inside.  Wisconsin has six Phlox species, all with a similar flower.

Each flowering stem has four pairs of opposite leaves. The leaves are lance-shaped, hairy, and up to 4 cm long.  Wood phlox is our only phlox species where the leaves lie flat and stick straight out from the stem.

Wood phlox may be confused with the invasive Dameís rocket (Hesperis matronalis), which blooms about the same time and outcompetes most native species. Dameís rocket is distinguished by having four petals and alternate leaves.

  • Height: 15 to 30 cm
  • Bloom: late April to mid-June
  • Origin of the name: Phlox, Gk., phlogos, flame; divaricata, wide spreading, refers to the leaves; L., di-, away from, varicare, to straddle.
  • Range:  Eastern N. Amer., w. to the Great Plains
  • WI Range:  woodlands statewide except the extreme northern counties
  • Common associates: jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomonís seal, sugar maple
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: 7, WI; 5, MI; 5, Chicago Region
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