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Campanula trachelium - Nettle-leaved Bellflower

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asterales - Family: Campanulaceae

Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Campanula trachelium

This lovely summer wildflower is also known as Bats-in-the-Belfry and as Throatwort.

Description

The common name of this upright perennial plant is most apt, because the serrated heart-shaped leaves are very similar in shape to those of Stinging Nettles (but a paler shade of green). Plants grow to a height of 60 to 100cm and have unbranched square hairy stems topped by a one-sided lax spike of bell-shaped flowers. The individual flowers have five fused petals forming a long drooping bell with a very hairy inner surface.

Campanula trachelium in northern France

The bells are typically 3cm across and are usually blue-violet, but they can occasionally be white.

Campanula trachelium, white-flowered form

Distribution

Nettle-leaved Bellflower is native to Britain but a scare to rare sight there except for in the south and east; its decline may be largely due to the degradation of its preferred habitat, and in particular to the destruction of so many old hedgerows. On mainland Europe this wildflower is still common in many parts of France; it is also recorded in Denmark and occasionally as far north as central Finland. To the east the geographical range of Campanula trachelium extends through much of Asia into Siberia.

Violet form and white form of Nettle-leaved Bellflower growing together in the Cotswolds

Habitat

Campanula trachelium favours alkaline soil; it copes well with the shady conditions on woodland edges and beneath unmanaged hedgerows. We have seen it also on canal banks and sheltering beneath sheer cliffs in quarries in North Wales.

Close-up of flower of Nettle-leaved bellflower, Campanula trachelium

Flowering Times

In Britain and northern mainland Europe these lovely bellflowers are usually at their best in June and July, but in well shaded spots they can persist well into August.

Etymology

The specific epithet trachelium reflects an ancient belief that Nettle-leaved Bellflower had properties that could cure sore throats (pain in the trachea, or windpipe).

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding.


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