Western jacob's ladder is also known as western polemonium. It is an attractive perennial wildflower, not unlike (although taller and perhaps lankier than ) the domestic jacob's ladders available for use in gardens in the Pacific Northwest. The solitary stem rises 40-100 cm high from a short, horizontal rhizome. The basal leaves are large and long-petiolate, with compound pinnate blades. The lower leaves are 6-12 cm long. The 11-27 leaflets are lanceolate to narrowly elliptic, ranging from 10-40 mm long and 2-13 mm wide. The 3 leaflets at the tip of the blade may sometimes be partly joined. The lower stem leaves are also well-developed, while those further up the stem become reduced in size with shorter petioles. The herbage is glandular haired within the inflorescence, and occasionally along the entire stem.
The inflorescence consists of clusters of flowers at the tips of the upper branches. The calyx is 5-8 mm long during flower bloom, with the tube and calyx lobes of about equal length. The corolla is sky-blue or occasionally white. The 5 lobes of the corolla are much longer than the tube, and collectively give the flower a bowl shape. The corolla is 1-1.5 cm long. The stamens are roughly equal in length to the corolla while the style is longer.
Western polemonium may be found in wet meadows, swamps, and along streams at middle elevations in the mountains.
Western polemonium is found from eastern Alaska and the Yukon south through the Pacific Northwest to California and east to Colorado, Utah and Nevada. It is also occasionally found in northern Minnesota.
Western polemonium as seen in a wet meadow at Bandit Springs adjacent to the snopark (rest area) off US Highway 26 near Ochoco Divide, Ochoco National Forest.........June 23, 2017. This is along the southwestern part of the route of the McGinnis Creek cross country ski trail.