Bellflower family (Campanulaceae)
Description: This herbaceous perennial plant is 1½–3' tall and little branched. The central stem is light green to reddish brown, glabrous to slightly hairy, and terete or angular. The alternate leaves are up to 5" long, 2" across, and variable in shape; the lowest leaves are often cordate-oval, while the middle and upper leaves are ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate. All of these leaves have crenate or serrated margins; their upper surfaces are medium to dark green, while their lower surfaces are light green and short-hairy along the veins. The lower and middle leaves have slender petioles, while the upper leaves are more likely to be sessile. Sometimes short leafy stalks develop from the axils of the leaves on the central stem.
The central stem terminates in an elongated raceme of flowers up to 1' long. The flowers tend to nod downward along one side of the raceme on short pedicels. At the base of each pedicel, there is a small leafy bract that is linear-lanceolate in shape. Sometimes nodding flowers are produced from the axils of the upper leaves on longer pedicels. Each flower has a bell-shaped blue-violet corolla, 5 green sepals, 5 stamens, and an exerted style with 3 curled stigmas. The corolla is 1–1½" long and half as much across; it has 5 pointed lobes that are recurved. The sepals are linear-lanceolate in shape, widely spreading to recurved, and much smaller in size than the corolla. The style is white or pale purple. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about a month. Each flower is replaced by a globoid seed capsule that contains several small seeds. The root system is rhizomatous. Occasionally, small colonies of plants are produced from the long rhizomes.
Cultivation: The preference is full to partial sun, more or less mesic conditions, and a fertile loamy soil.
Range & Habitat: Creeping Bellflower naturalizes occasionally in northern Illinois and uncommonly in central Illinois; it is apparently rare or absent in southern Illinois (see Distribution Map). This species was introduced into North America from Europe as an ornamental plant. Habitats include open woodlands, savannas, thickets, fence rows, edges of yards, roadsides, and waste areas. Creeping Bellflower is often cultivated in gardens because of its showy flowers.
Faunal Associations: According to Müller (1873/1883), the flowers of Creeping Bellflower produce both nectar and pollen. Müller observed honeybees, bumblebees, Halictid bees, and other bees visiting the flowers for nectar or pollen in Germany; he also observed a Syrphid fly with a long proboscis (Rhingia sp.) sucking nectar from the flowers. Aside from these observations, further information about floral-faunal relationships for this species are unavailable.
Photographic Location: The upper photograph(s) was taken at a flower garden in Urbana, Illinois, while the lower photograph was taken at Busey Woods in the same city.
Comments: Creeping Bellflower has very showy flowers. Among the Eurasian bellflowers that are cultivated, this is the species that most often escapes — in part because it is more commonly cultivated. A species that has naturalized less often in Illinois, Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower), has more erect flowers that are clustered together at the apex each central stem. The flowers of this species have sepals that are longer and wider than those of Creeping Bellflower. The circumboreal Campanula rotundifolia (Harebells) and native Campanulastrum americanum (American Bellflower) are quite distinct from Creeping Bellflower. Harebells has linear leaves along its stems and its bell-shaped flowers are smaller in size (usually less than 1" in length) than those of creeping Bellflower. The flowers of American Bellflower have shallow corollas that are star-shaped with widely spreading lobes; the older scientific name of this latter species is Campanula americana.