Milky Bellflower Canterbury Bell

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Giant Bellflower

Campanula latifolia

  • Name also: Large Campanula, Wide-leaved Bellflower
  • Family: Bellflower Family – Campanulaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short.
  • Height: 60–120 cm (25–50 in.). Stem unbranched, blunt-edged–almost round, almost glabrous, at least with no rigid hairs.
  • Flower: Corolla campanulate (bell-shaped), 5-lobed, initially erect, eventually slightly nodding, 35–60 mm (1.4–2.4 in.) long, fused, pale purple or white. Calyx fused, 5-lobed, lobes narrowly ovate, eventually spreading, glabrous. Stamens 5. Pistil of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence an abundantly flowered raceme, flowers solitary, axillary in subtending bracts, sometimes branching from lower subtending bracts on groups of 2–3.
  • Leaves: Alternate. Lowest leaves long-stalked, cordate–broadly ovate. Stalk usually widely winged. Upper leaves almost stalkless, ovate–lanceolate. Blade soft-haired, shallowly double-toothed.
  • Fruit: Round, strongly veined, glabrous, nodding capsule.
  • Habitat: Yards, parks, forest margins, broad-leaved forests, coppices. An ornamental.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Large and handsome giant bellflower does not grow wild in Finland, although it grows in the southern half of the country as a leftover from cultivation or an escape around inhabited areas. It can survive a long time untended in nearby forest and eventually seem like a wild plant. Creeping bellflower (C. rapunculoides) also behaves in the same way. Giant bellflower is most likely to be mixed up with the native species nettle-leaved bellflower (C. trachelium), although its stem is sharp-edged and rough-haired.

Giant bellflower is already particularly common in southern Sweden up until the south-western coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The island of Nåtö in the south-eastern corner of the Åland Islands was thought to be the northernmost limit of the species’ habitat, but the stands were later discovered to have been planted there by people. As all the giant bellflowers that grow in Finland are apparently aliens, it has been removed from the list of endangered species. Apart from being an attractive plant to look at, giant bellflower has also been cultivated for food: its rosette leaves have been used at the beginning of summer like spinach or leaf vegetables, and the swollen rootstock has been used like asparagus or Jerusalem artichokes.

Milky Bellflower & Canterbury Bells

Campanula lactiflora & Campanula medium

Apart from giant bellflower, many other bellflower plants are cultivated as ornamentals. Milky bellflower probably got its name from its opaque blue, almost white flowers or the white latex it contains. Canterbury bells on the other hand are easy to recognise by their urceolate (pitcher-shaped) flowers. Both species are very old perennials which are nowadays only rarely found in gardens and as leftovers from cultivation.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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