Harebell is a native erect perennial plant, growing to 20 inches high on extremely thin, stems, often several stems from the same root. Stems are unbranched except near the inflorescence. They contain a milky sap.
Leaves: The upper leaves of the plant are very linear, up to 3-1/4 inches long, upward angled then curving downward, alternate, and somewhat sparse on the stem. They are usually with smooth margins and they taper to a narrow base, sometimes to a short stalk. Lower leaves are broader with a few small teeth. The plant first forms a rosette and those leaves are more oval, but drop away by flowering time - see drawing below for an illustration.
The inflorescence is either a single flower or a small raceme of 2 to 3 stalked flowers. There may be several branches in the inflorescence as the drawing below shows.
Flowers: Each bell-shaped blue-violet flower is 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches long, on a slender wiry stalk and usually nodding. The corolla lobes are fused at the base, then separate into 5 triangular lobes that flare outward, forming the bell shape. The green calyx is fused at the base then separates into 5 slender lobes that slightly recurve outward. There are 5 stamens with yellow anthers and a pistil with a single style that forms a stigma with 3 lobes. Each flower has a small green linerar bract located at the base of the flower stalk.
Seed: Mature flowers form an ovoid ribbed, flat-topped capsule with 3 chambers that open near the base to release the many oblong seeds. Seeds are extremely small and light weight - about 900,000 to the ounce. They need light for germination plus 30 days of cold stratification.
Habitat: Harebell requires full sun but will adapt to partial shade. Moisture conditions should be dry mesic to dry. It is frequently encountered along path edges where it is not overshadowed by larger plants. When in partial sun it will not grow erect.
Names: The genus Campanula, is derived from the Latin word Campana for 'bell', the shape of the flower. The species name rotundifolia, refers to round leaves which this plant has in its basal rosette, but they are not present at flowering time. The author name for the plant classification, 'L.' is for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.
Comparisons: Harebell is similar, but larger, than the white flowered Marsh Bellflower, Campanula aparinoides, which was also an indigenous Garden plant but is no longer extant.
Above: A nice grouping of Harebell growing in full sun, where they usually remain upright. Drawing from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Below: The corolla separates into 5 triangular outward flaring lobes. The calyx has five long slender green lobes. Note the single style (2nd photo and 1st photo further below) has formed the 3 stigma lobes.
Below: 1st photo - The style forms a 3-lobed stigma. 2nd photo - The 5 narrow lobes of the calyx persist onto the dry seed capsule.
Below: 1st & 2nd photo - The flower stalk is long and wiry. 3rd photo - Stems are smooth and slender without branching below the inflorescence.
Below: 1st photo - The narrow linear upper stem leaf. 2nd photo - The lower stem leaves are broader with a few teeth.
Below: A comparison of the five Garden Bellflowers.
Notes: Harebell could be considered indigenous to the Garden. Eloise Butler first introduced the plant in Sept. 1908 with plants she sourced in the area of Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis. She planted more in 1912, '13, '17 and '19 but on July 31, 1915 she discovered it growing along the east brookside. Martha Crone planted it in 1933 and seeds in 1944 and 130 plants in 1945; more plants in 1946, '47, and '48. It has been noted on most of the Garden census reports but was not listed on the 1986 census, reappearing on the 2009 census. Harebell is widespread in North America, being found in all of Canada and most of lower 48 states except those near the SE Gulf Coast. Within Minnesota it is known from most counties in the northern half of the state and a few in the SE, mostly absent in the drier SW counties.
Harebell is one of 3 species of Campanula native to Minnesota. The other two are C. aparinoides, Marsh Bellflower, and C. americana, the Tall Bellflower. Two others found in the state are introductions: C. cervicaria, Bristly Bellflower; and C. rapunculoides, European Bellflower.
Lewis & Clark encountered C. rotundifolia on their outbound journey up the Missouri River in present day Montana. They noted finding in on July 18 1805 and recorded a description. (Ref. #3b).
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"