Campanulaceae family

The Harebell or Campanula rotundifolia is a delicate wildflower here seen on our coast (by Matt Summers)

The Campanulaceae or Bellflower family is another family with many useful ornamental garden varieties but also has several native species in the main genus Campanula as well as in the genera: Legousia, Hesperocodon (Wahlenbergia), Phyteuma, Jasione and Lobelia.

The Campanulaceae are now in Family 133 according to Stace in between the interesting Lentibulariaceae or Bladderwort family and the Aquifoliaceae or Holly family!

See on the next page for all the main species in this family and about their ethnobotanical uses. This blog cannot provide all the info, such as where you can find them, what soil conditions, etc. But this is why I provide the links of some other marvelous websites out there! Green background is for the usual Edible or Wildlife uses and pink background for Medicinal uses. Blue background for ‘Interesting facts’ , although I hope you find all my information interesting!

Contents:

Campanula spp. or Bellflowers

There are 5 native species (number 1-5) and 4 introduced/garden escapes which are often much more abundant than the native species.

1) C. patula or Spreading Bellflower
C. rapunculus or Rampion Bellflower
C. persicifolia or Peach-leaved Bellflower
2) C. glomerata or Clustered Bellflower
C.portenschlagiana or Adria Bellflower
C.poscharskyana or Trailing Bellflower
3) C. latifolia or Giant Bellflower
4) C. trachelium or Nettle-leaved Bellflower
5) C. rotundifolia or Harebell

Other genera and species:

Legousia hybrida or Venus’s-looking-glass
Hesperocodon hederaceus or Ivy-leaved Bellflower
Phyteuma spicatum or Spiked Rampion
Phyteuma orbiculare or Round-headed Rampion
Jasione montana or Sheep’s-bit
Lobelia urens or Heath Lobelia
Lobelia dortmanna or Water Lobelia
Pratia angulata or Lawn Lobelia
Pratia pedunculata or Blue Star Creeper

Campanula spp. or Bellflowers

There are 17 different species listed in Stace and only 5 are truly native, whilst the remaining are garden escapes.

These garden escapes are often so much ‘at home’ here, even more at home than many a native wildflower! All the campanulas produce abundant, small seeds which can germinate in small cracks on pavements and in walls and disturbed soils.

As many wildflowers they may be pollinated by beetles, flies, bees and butterflies; they have nectar/pollen rich flowers.

C. patula

Campanula patula or Spreading Bellflower (picture by Mike Poulton)

Campanula patula or Spreading Bellflower is a native but decreasing in the wild.

A biennial herb of dry, well-drained, sunny sites on fairly infertile sandy or gravelly soils. It is found in open woodland, on banks and rock outcrops. Reproduction is by seed, which needs disturbed sites for germination, but which is long-lived, allowing the plant to reappear after long absences.

C. rapunculus

Campanula rapunculus (picture by Hectonichus- Wikimedia Commons)

Campanula rapunculus or Rampion Bellflower is not strictly a native. It was originally grown for its edibility and was recorded from the wild as early as 1597, but then it fell out of favour as a vegetable around 1700 and is now both rare in the wild as well as in cultivation.

Edible Uses:

  • Root can be eaten raw or cooked. A very nice sweet flavour, reminiscent of walnuts. They are best mixed with other root vegetables and used in winter salads.
  • Leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb. A fairly bland flavour, with a hint of sweetness, they are quite acceptable raw in salads. The leaves are rich in vitamin C, they make an acceptable winter salad.
  • Young shoots in spring can be blanched and cooked like asparagus.

C. persicifolia

Campanula persicifolia and Leucanthemum vulgare are a perfect match at Portway Hill (picture by M. Poulton)

Campanula persicifolia or Peach-leaved Bellflower is a rhizomatous perennial herb found on waste ground, waysides and banks, and in hedgerows and woods. It is commonly cultivated, and occurs as a casual or, more frequently, as established and persistent populations.

C. glomerata

Campanula glomerata or Clustered Bellflower (picture by Mike Poulton)

Campanula glomerata or Clustered Bellflower.

A perennial herb of calcareous grassland, scrub, open woodland, cliffs and sand dunes. It is most frequent on chalk and oolite, and curiously absent from apparently suitable habitat on other limestones and base-rich substrates. It also occurs as a garden escape on roadsides and waste ground.

It is a much loved ornamental plant and apparently it is the county flower of Rutland!

C. portenschlagiana

Campanula portenschlagiana or Adria Bellflower as living cladding in some steps (picture by Mike Poulton)

Campanula portenschlagiana or Adria Bellflower is grown as an ornamental in rockeries and escaped in similar growing conditions, in craggs in walls, etc.

Edible Uses (according to Ken Fern from PFAF:

  • Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are rather small, but they are produced all year round. They have a mild flavour and make an acceptable ingredient in mixed salads, especially in the winter, but we find that, eaten in quantity, they become a bit unpleasant.
  • Flowers can be added in salads and they have a pleasant flavour.

C. poscharskyana

Campanula poscharskyana or Trailing Bellflower as seen and photographed by Mike Poulton

Campanula poscharskyana or Trailing Bellflower is similar grown as above species and spreads very rapidly into walls, cracks, etc.

Numerous varieties and cultivars have been developed for garden use, including ‘Blue Gown’, ‘Blue Waterfall’, ‘Freya’, ‘E.H. Frost’, ‘Glandore’, ‘Lisduggan Variety’, ‘Senior’, and ‘Silberregen’. The cultivar ‘Stella’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.

Edible Uses:

  • Leaves may be eaten raw or cooked. Has a pleasant sweet flavour but the leaves are a little tough according to Ken Fern (PFAF). It makes a very good addition mixed in salads during winter
  • The flowers taste sweet and make a decorative addition to the salad bowl.

C. latifolia

Campanula latifolia or Giant Bellflower (picture by Kurt Stuber in Wikipedia)

Campanula latifolia or Giant Bellflower is a large perennial herb of damp woodland, wooded riversides and hedgerows, usually on fertile, neutral or calcareous soils. It is also grown in gardens, occurring as an established alien on waste ground, roadsides and hedge banks.

It is also grown as an ornamental garden plant.

C. trachelium

Campanula trachelium or Nettle-leaved Bellflower. Close-up showing the fine hairs on the leaves and petals of C. trachelium on the GR 5 (is a long-distance footpath!) by the river Doubs (by Eric in Wikipedia)

Campanula trachelium or Nettle-leaved Bellflower.

A large perennial herb, found as a native on dry, base-rich, usually calcareous soils in woodland, scrubby grassland and hedge banks; in Ireland it is also reported from river banks and swamp woodland. It is also grown in gardens, and occurs as a naturalised alien on a wider range of soils and habitats.

An attractive ornamental plant, which easily spreads by seeds!

This latex-containing plant is used for tonsillitis according to The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe by J. Barker. A gargle is made from the fresh leaves or roots.

C. rotundifolia

Campanula rotundifolia or Harebell growing abundantly in the dunes of Northumberland (by Matt Summers)

Campanula rotundifolia or Harebell.

A rhizomatous perennial herb of dry, open, infertile habitats including grassland, fixed dunes, rock ledges, roadsides and railway banks. It tolerates a wide range of soil pH, being found on both mildly acidic and calcareous substrates, and heavy-metal tolerant races are known.

In Scotland, it is often known simply as Bluebell. Probably the most common encountered native Campanula on the B.I.

It is regularly visited by bumblebees and Honeybees, providing an autumnal source of nectar for these insects.

According to the charity Plantlife this is the County Flower of Dumfriesshire, Yorkshire and County Antrim!

See also their article about the threat of too much Nitrogen in the air.

The next genera and species in the Campanulaceae are

Legousia

this genus has only got one Archaeophytal species:

Legousia hybrida or Venus’s-looking-glass (picture by Thomas Meyer, Günzburg – Wikipedia)

Legousia hybrida or Venus’s-looking-glass

This annual of arable fields is usually found on calcareous soils, especially on chalk. Outside its core areas, it occurs as a casual in disturbed sites such as motorway embankments.

L. hybrida has significantly declined since the 1940s because of the use of herbicides and changing methods of arable cultivation. However, the seed is long-lived and populations can reappear after long periods of absence.

The shining oval fruits which appear inside the seed-capsule give rise to the name, which are said to resemble brilliantly polished brass hand-mirrors.

Hesperocodon (syn. Wahlenbergia)

Hesperocodon hederaceus or Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Pen drawing on paper by Elly Waterman- Wikipedia)

Hesperocodon hederaceus or Wahlenbergia hederacea (synonym) or Ivy-leaved Bellflower

This is a small, low-growing perennial herb found in damp, wet or boggy places on acidic soils, occurring on heaths, heathy pastures, moors, open woodland and Salix carr, and by streams and in flushes. In Ireland, it is most frequent beside streams and is absent from pastures. It prefers areas with moving, rather than standing, water.

Phyteumia or Rampion

Phyteuma spicatum or Spiked Rampion

This is a very rare, attractive wildflower! It is a long-lived perennial herb of damp, fertile, acid soils on road verges, streamsides and in coppiced woodland. 

Phyteuma spicatum flowerheads cooking (by CanyonKid-Own Work, Wikipedia)

Edible Uses:

The leaves, roots, and flowers are edible, and can be eaten raw. Flowers before blooming can for instance be prepared by steaming or boiling briefly, then seasoned (see photo above). But I would only do this if it is becoming a real invasive weed though!

It  has been grown for centuries as a medicinal plant, and was first recorded in the wild in 1640 according to the online atlas But I could not find anymore information on that.

A detailed report here by Plantlife.

P. orbiculare

Close-up of flowers of Phyteuma orbiculare (by Hectonichus– own work for Wikipedia)

Phyteuma orbiculare or Round-headed Rampion is another attractive perennial herb of species-rich chalk grassland, open scrub, earthworks and verges. It is tolerant of grazing, and seems to prefer grazed areas, but also grows in neighbouring ungrazed grassland. Propagation is mostly by seed but it also spreads by stoloniferous growth.

The round-headed rampion is known colloquially in the county of Sussex, England as the Pride of Sussex. It is also the County flower of Sussex. As Sussex’s county flower, its name was chosen for the Rampion Wind Farm, a wind farm off the coast of Sussex.

Jasione or Sheep’s-bit

Jasione montana or Sheep’s-bit as seen on a cliff in Cornwall (by Matt Summers)

Jasione montana or Sheep’s-bit is a biennial herb of acidic, shallow, well-drained soils. It occurs on sea-cliffs, in maritime grasslands and heaths and on stabilised sand dunes, and inland on heathland, stone walls, hedge banks and railway cuttings. Propagation is by seed and disturbed, open sites and recently burnt ground are frequently colonised.

Some fifty species of bees and wasps, thirty species of fly, thirty species of butterflies and moths and several beetles have been recorded as visiting the flowers, and therefore this plant is characterized by a generalized pollination syndrome.

The flowers are visible under ultraviolet light and it is believed that this makes them attractive to pollinating insects. They do not show a traditional bull’s-eye pattern to guide the insect but the ultraviolet reflectance of the petals is very high.

Lobelia

There are 2 native species according to Stace:

L. urens

Lobelia urens or Heath Lobelia (picture by © Hans Hillewaert-Wikipedia)

Lobelia urens or Heath Lobelia

A rhizomatous perennial herb of rough pastures and grassy heaths. It is confined to infertile acidic soils that are often seasonally waterlogged. Reproduction is by seed, which may be long-lived, and germination seems to be stimulated by disturbance. It is rare in Britain and only found in South and South West of England in lowland areas up to 210 metres high.

L. dortmanna

Lobelia dortmanna or Water Lobelia (picture by Rolf Engstrand- Wikipedia)

Lobelia dortmanna or Water Lobelia is a small, rosette-forming perennial herb of oligotrophic lakes with acidic substrates. It is slow-growing, with little ability to withstand shade or competition and is therefore confined to shallow water less than 2 metres deep. It is still frequent in the north and west but has declined, largely before 1930, from the eastern edge of its range in both Britain and Ireland through eutrophication.

Pratia

Pratia angulata or Lawn Lobelia is an introduces species from New Zealand. Grown as an ornamental creeping plant.

and last of all:

P. pedunculata

Pratia pedunculata as seen on a front lawn of Darbys Hill Road, Rowley Regis (picture by Mike Poulton)

Pratia pedunculata or Blue Star Creeper is similar as above, grown as an ornamental and not mentioned by Stace, but clearly it has been noticed in our native region!

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