Campanulaceae – the belle of the ball

The Bellflower family (Campanulaceae) is widespread across the northern hemisphere. Species are commonly identified by their beautiful bell-shaped flower – often a distinctive shade of blue. Despite their delicate appearance the family is quite hardy and can grow on  dry grassland, heaths, rocky ground and sand dunes.Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell) is a much loved and arguably the most delicate member  of the Campanulaceae family and although not currently known from the campus, has previously been recorded here (Le Grice & Jury 2011).

The harebell leaves are often rounded at the bottom and change shape to a more narrow and elongated leaf as they go up the stem

Campanula rotundifolia (Copyright Emily Sturgess 2012)

The Latin name can cause some confusion amongst beginning botanists beause ‘rotundifolia’ suggests round leaves but the stem leaves of the plant are rather obviously elongated and narrow and  not rotund at all! However the leaves of this species are dimorphic (of two types) and if you look at the base of the plant the basal leaves there are indeed round (Akeroyd 2003). The Harebell is often locally referred to as the Bluebell (e.g. in Scotland), however the Bluebell that makes such a spectacular sight in British oak woods in the spring is a member of the Asparagaceae family.

Campanula trachelium (Nettle-leaved Bellflower) is known to occur in the woodland of the Wilderness (Grice & Jury 2011) and can be found in flower from July to September. The stem of this much larger species differs greatly from the slender Harebell, being rough, hairy and angled (Rose 1981).

Nettle-leaved Bellflower is found on the White Knights Campus



Akeroyd, J. 2003. The Encyclopedia of Wild Flowers. Parragon, Bath.

Le Grice, D. & Jury, S.L. 2011. Flora of Whiteknights Park. Unpublished BSc Dissertation, University of Reading.

Rose, F. 1981. The Wild Flower Key. Penguin Group, London

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