European Bellflower is an introduced invasive erect perennial forb growing to to 3 feet high on a mostly smooth stem, usually not branched and sometimes with sparse hair. The stem may pick us some reddish tinges over the normal green. Some stems may be angled.
Leaves of the upper stem are lance shaped, alternate, coarse with irregular teeth, and are usually stalkless. The larger lower basal leaves are also coarse with irregular teeth, but wider and have a rounded to heart-shaped base with long stalks and the stalk can have reddish coloration. There may be some sparse hair on the leaf, especially on the underside veins. The largest leaves can be 5 inches long and 2 inches wide.
The inflorescence is a tall raceme, almost half the length of the plant. Flowers that appear only on one side of the raceme. Each flower rises on a stalk (pedicle) beneath a small leafy bract.
Flowers are 5-parted, with a bell-shaped corolla that is slightly nodding, an inch long and these open from the bottom of the spike upward. The 5 petals of the corolla are a blue-violet, united together at the base, with pointed tips that flare outward as the flower opens. The green calyx has five lobes (sepals) that are narrow, linear, very pointed and reflex backward when the flower opens. There are 5 stamens with long yellow anthers and a style that has a 3-lobed stigma where each lobe curves backward. The ovary is 3-celled. Only the style is exserted from the corolla. The inside lower throat of the corolla has fine whitish hair.
Seed: The mature flower produces a globose 3-celled seed capsule still retaining the recurved calyx lobes. The capsule has several shiny light brown ovoid somewhat flattened seeds that have small wings or ridges on the side. The capsule opens by 3 valves at the base and the seeds are dispersed by the wind as the stem is shaken. It is estimated that a vigorous plant can produce 15,000 seeds annually.
Habitat: European Bellflower is a plant of dryer places, roadsides, old gardens, railway lines, and disturbed areas. It can also be found in more moist areas. It prefers some partial shade during the heat of summer days. The plant grows from fleshy spreading rhizomes and a deep vertical root and is invasive. The deep root parts make eradication difficult. Homeowner type herbicides will need several applications as the large root stores a lot of reserve energy.
Names: The genus name Campanula is derived from the Latin campana, meaning 'little bell'. The species name, rapunculoides, is an old reference to the root looking like little turnips. The author name for the plant classification, 'L.', refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. As to the common names, the plant is an import from Europe, hence the "European" name. "Creeping" refers to the rhizomes which spread underground, spreading the plant. "Rampion" is explained at the bottom of the page.
Comparisons: The American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) blooms in the Woodland Garden. This species is taller with light blue-violet petals that spread widely forming a star shape and the flowers are on all sides of the raceme. In the Upland Garden will be found Clustered Bellflower, C. glomerata, where the flowers are clustered together at the stem more like certain mints, have longer sepals and do not nod. Two smaller species have similar bell-shaped flowers but the plants have a much different structure : Harebell, C. rotundifolia, and Marsh Bellflower, C. aparinoides. See comparison photo below.
Above: The inflorescence is a tall raceme about half the height of the total plant. Drawing from Flora von Deutschland.
Below: Note the small green bract at the point where the flower stalk attaches to the raceme. The five linear lobes of the calyx reflex backward when the flower is fully open.
Below: 1st photo - The elongated style protrudes from the flower tube with the 3 lobes of the stigma recurving, and at the base, the lobes of the calyx recurve. 2nd photo - The corolla throat has fine hair. Stamens are shorter than the style and have long yellow anthers.
Below: Lower stem leaves have stalks and more heart-shaped bases. Leaf margins have irregular teeth. The underside (2nd photo) is pale in color with fine white hair on the veins.
Below: 1st photo - Upper stem leaves are more lance-shaped and usually stalkless. 2nd photo - Seed capsules along the raceme with their recurved calyx lobes.
Below: An individual seed capsule. Calyx lobes are persistent onto the seed capsule.
Below: A comparison of the five Bellflowers found in the Garden.
Notes: European Bellflower was listed on Martha Crone's 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time and on the later census reports. Martha planted it in the Garden on July 18, 1947. It is a European import for garden decorations, now widely naturalized in Minnesota and the United States. It has been reported in a number of scattered counties in the State, principally in the northern 2/3rds of the state. In North America it has spread all over except the most southern states of the U.S. and the three northern Canadian Provinces.
There are five species of Campanula normally found in Minnesota, two of which are introduced: C. americana, Tall Bellflower; C. aparinoides, Marsh Bellflower; C. rotundifolia, Harebell; C. cervicaria, Bristly bluebells; and C. rapunculoides, European Bellflower. The latter two are the introductions. The other bellflower found in the Garden, Clustered Bellflower, Campanula glomerata L., is another import and not found in Minnesota outside of gardens.
In England, European Bellflower was cultivated in English Kitchen Gardens and valued as a vegetable, the leaves, shoots and roots being edible, although that use has now stopped and it is entirely decorative. Over there the name "Rampion" or "Ramps" is more the norm. Shakespeare's Falstaff references the plant which indicates it was well known in his time. It is part of one of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales - Rapunzel is named after it. (Ref.# 7). In his Herbal of 1597, Gerard (Ref. 6a) states: "The rootes are especially used in sallads, being boiled and eaten with oile, vineger, and pepper. Some affirme that the decoction of the roots are good for all inflammation of the mouth and almonds of the throte and other diseases happening in the mouth and throte, as the other Throtewarts."
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"