Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wednesday's Wildflower: Tall Bellflower

While many of our weekly subjects have been highlighted for their overall usefulness to mankind, today's flower has been selected mainly for its serene, simplistic beauty.

The color palette for mid-summer is composed mostly of bright whites and sunny yellows, with the occasional splash of red or pink.

However, there is one flower to be found that offers a refreshing cool note amidst the stifling heat and oppressive humidity.

Tall Bellflower's soft blue tone glimmering from the shadows is singular and unique in our eastern forests.

This lovely plant can range in height from a mere two feet to a towering 6 feet, and is typically found growing in moist woods and along stream banks.

Its alternating leaves are lance-shaped, grow 3-6 inches long and have toothed margins.

It typically starts to bloom sometime in June or July, and in some locations, a procession of blooms can continue right up until the first frost.

The ethereal blue, star-shaped flowers are actually a single, flat-faced corolla with 5 deep lobes. Each blossom has a pale ring in its throat, 5 curly stamens, and a distinctive long, curved pistil reaching outward.

They are loosely borne on a terminal raceme, blooming from the bottom of the stalk to the top.

While it is an annual or biennial, it self seeds readily and can form dense stands in moist, shady areas.

While many wildflowers have names that accurately describe their appearance, Tall Bellflower's is a bit misleading.

Technically, its flowers are not bell-shaped, but rather flat and open.

Its Latin name is even more confusing. It's older name is Campanula americana, with Campanula meaning "little bell."

The other plants in this genus have flowers that are indeed in the shape of a bell, such as Campanula divaricata, or Southern Harebell:
... or the European species Creeping Bellflower (C. rapunculoides):
But our friend Tall Bellflower doesn't really fit in.

So, because of its unique flower, it was assigned its very own genus, and now goes by the Latin name Campanulastrum americanum.

While it doesn't have a long rap sheet of medicinal or culinary uses for humams, it hasn't been completely without merit.

Its leaves were brewed into a tea by Native American tribes and early settlers for treating tuberculosis and coughs, and an infusion of crushed roots was used to treat pertussis.

The blooms are irresistible to bees and also visited by the occasional butterfly or Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Sometimes White-tailed deer stop to nibble on the plants.

It makes a lovely shade garden plant, especially if planted along a back border. Even though it prefers basic soils, it tolerates acidity. Tall Bellflower can be found at some native plant nurseries such as this one

If you happen to live in the eastern United States, wander along a wooded stream bank and you are almost sure to find Tall Bellflower beckoning you to linger in the cool of the shade.

Be sure to join us for next Wednesday's Wildflower!

Click here to read about last week's wildflowerWild Bergamot

Medicinal information herein is shared strictly for anecdotal purposes. Do not attempt to self-medicate with wild herbs. Please consult a doctor first.

Next flower->


Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians - Dennis Horn & Tavia Cathcart

All About Tennessee Wildflowers Jan W. Midgley


  1. I just love these posts you do about wildflowers and I always learn so much. Thanks for linking up to the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home.


  2. I so enjoy seeing your Wildflower posts and learning the names of the flower. Very informative. This Tall Bellflower is beautiful. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick