Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States






Tall Bellflower
Campanulastrum americanum (L.) Small
Bellflower (Campanulaceae)
Woodland & Upland
Early to late Summer
Other names and notes

(American Bellflower). Tall Bellflower can be either an annual or a biennial, and will successfully reseed itself. It is somewhat taller than the European Bellflower, growing up to 4 feet high or more. The main stem is a bit hairy, is usually not branched, slightly angled, and contains a milky sap. Leaves: Upper leaves are lance shaped and lower leaves can be more egg shaped, all with teeth and alternate on the stem. In size that are up to 6" long - 3x as long as wide. The inflorescence is a tall spike atop the stem or in less frequent cases, on a side stem rising from an upper leaf axil. Between the flowers on the spike are small green leafy bracts, the lower ones resembling small leaves, the upper ones merely thin and pointed. The flowers are 5-part with a pale blue to violet bell-shaped flower corolla that separates into 5 lobes which appear satiny in sunlight and tend to have curly edges and visually open to a star shape. Each flower has a pale center ring that surrounds a 5-angled ovary and in the center of the ring is a long curved light purple color protruding style with a 3-lobed stigma at the tip. The anthers are yellow and form a spiral at maturity. The calyx is green and its five lobes reflex backward as the flower opens. Seed: Mature flowers produce a seed capsule shaped like a turban that is erect, ribbed and opens at the top. Dispersion is simply by wind shaking the stem.

Habitat: Tall Bellflower grows from a taproot in moist to mesic woods and woodland edges where the soil is rich and sun is partial to light shade. Names: The genus, Campanulastrum, is derived from the Latin Campana, referring to a bell shape as in the flowers. The species, americanum, is 'of America' to distinguish this species from the European variety. Tall Bellflower has recently been reclassified into the current genus from the older Campanula americana due to the difference in flower structure with those plants in Campanula. Many references will still place it in the old genus. The plant author name 'Small', following Linnaeus (L), is John Kunkel Small (1869-1938), American Botanist, first curator of the New York Botanical Garden, best known for Flora of the Southeastern United States. Comparison: Tall Bellflower blooms in the Woodland Garden and on the back path to the Upland Garden, whereas the European Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) blooms in the sunny Upland Garden. European Bellflower has a bell-shaped flower on one side of the stem, rather than the this more open style that surrounds the stem and grows in sunny areas. In the Upland Garden will also be found Clustered Bellflower, C. glomerata, where the flowers are clustered together at the stem, 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. Comparison photo shown below.

Tall Bellflower
Tall Bellflower
Tall Bellflower
Above: The developing flower buds appear in the leaf axils on the upper part of the stem. These leaves remain small when the flowers open. Above: The flower corolla separates into 5 lobes which appear satiny and tend to have curly edges and visually is a star shape. Each flower has a pale center ring and in the center of the ring is a long curved light purple color protruding style
Below: Note the fringes on the tips of the petals, the spiral form of the mature yellow anthers, the 5-part ovary in the center and the reflexed green sepals noticeable on the flower on the left. Below: The lance-shape leaves are stalked with a slight wing on the petiole. Lower leaves may be more egg shape as the photo shows.

Flower corolla

Tall Bellflower leaf
Below: A comparison of the five Bellflowers mentioned above.
Bellflower comparison  

Notes: Eloise Butler's records show that she introduced this plant to the Garden in 1907 and 1908 and planted seeds of this species on Oct. 29, 1914. It is listed on Martha Crone's 1951 census of plants in the Garden. In the wild it is considered native to Minnesota in the counties bordering the Minnesota River and several other counties bordering the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers in the SE. In North America, its range is the eastern half of the U.S. and Ontario in Canada.

There are five species of Campanula 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.

Former Curator Martha Crone wrote in The Fringed Gentian™ of July 1955 of "When the spring flowers have faded and before the summer flowers have come into bloom, when there is little variety in the woodland where shadows are deepest, it is then that the Tall Blue Bellflower is the most conspicuous. It is an annual and has proven quite equal to reproducing itself year after year."


References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applies. Distribution principally from Wi, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.  
©2014 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "" 012614