Friday, July 23, 2010

Tall Bellflower

Tall Bellflower, Campanula americana, is a plant whose name I must relearn each year. It’s a member of the Bluebell family, but it doesn’t look like a bell. When the first Bellflower blooms appear, I invariably think “Ah, the Star Flower is blooming.” Well, it does look more like a star than a bell.

The flower attracts a variety of different insect species, most of which seem to be small flies, bees and beetles. This guy, looking like some type of seed beetle, moved slowly about the interior of the flower. These small insects seem to concentrate their activities at the center of the flower where they feed on nectar and pollen. I wonder what sort of activity occurs that results in the pollen getting out to the end of that long pistil where it can attach to the stigma. I’ve sometimes watched bees and beetles walk to the end of the pistil and use it as a sort of launch platform. This could very well result in pollen transfer, but that activity doesn’t seem to occur often enough to indicate an evolved pollination strategy.

The plant produces a succession of blooms over a long season. It’s one of the few blooming plants along the shady creek bank in July. I imagine that this would tend to increase the numbers of insect visitors to the flowers.

Tall Bellflower is a winter annual or biennial. This means that it must produce a good crop of viable seeds in order to maintain its position in the landscape and it does a remarkable job of performing that function. Each plant produces masses of easy to germinate seeds that have no problem producing plants for the next generation.

The bottom portion of the stalk has several leaves busily capturing and storing energy to be used for flowering and seed production. The plant won’t be surviving into the next year, so there’s no need to hold back stored energy for future growth. The thin stalk is strong and resilient enough to survive a lot of abuse. In the past two weeks, these plants have survived pounding rain, strong straight line winds and two bouts of ¼ inch hail. They remain in perfect shape.

The plant needs adequate moisture in order to thrive and dry conditions will radically deplete the population. In extremely dry years the only plants that seem to survive are those that grow along the edge of the creek where moisture would have been retained for the longest period. Despite the name confusion, I think it’s an attractive plant that really brightens up the shaded fields near the creek.


  1. I am a lover of blue in nature not know why but I am attracted to anything blue!!
    This is one I have never seen ...very pretty photos... and interest info!!

  2. I agree, grammie g, that blue in the landscape is great. If things keep going the way they are, there will be a lot of blue this fall.

  3. So delicate looking and yet to have survived such abuse from Mother Nature! I especially enjoyed your text today and learning to observe and think through every little thing. Well done! ~karen