Campanula americana L.

Tall Bellflower


CC = 4
CW = 0
MOC = 89

© SRTurner

Family - Campanulaceae

Habit - Annual or biennial forb, with short taproot.

Stems - Erect or strongly ascending, to 2 m, simple or sparsely branched, sometimes ridged, with milky sap, hollow, glabrous or occasionally hairy toward tips.

Campanula_americana_stem3.jpg Stem.

© SRTurner

Campanula_americana_stem2.jpg Stem with milky sap.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Alternate, short petiolate to sessile, often with winged petioles, lanceolate to oblong-ovate, serrate with minute prickles at apices of teeth, acuminate-attenuate, to 17 cm long, 5 cm wide, sparsely pubescent above and below. Margins short ciliate. Leaves reduced greatly above to foliaceous bracts.

Campanula_americana_basals.jpg Vegetative rosette.

© KBildner

Campanula_americana_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Campanula_americana_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Campanula_americana_leaves.jpg Stem leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Moderately dense spikelike racemes, the flowers solitary or in clusters of 1-3 at each node, the bracts on the upper portion greatly reduced. Flowers typically subtended by 3 foliaceous bracts, the central bracts larger, the lateral bracts small and linear.

Campanula_americana_flower3.jpg Portion of inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyx tube 3-4 mm long at flowering, elongating as fruit matures, the lobes 7-12 mm long, 0.8-1.2 mm wide, hairlike to very narrowly triangular, spreading to reflexed, glabrous. Corollas saucer-shaped, the tube 3-4 mm long, the 5 lobes 6-15 mm long, hairy at the tip, blue to purple, usually white toward center, glabrous. Style 12-15 mm long, strongly exserted from the corolla, elongating and becoming S-shaped in open flowers, the stigma 3-lobed. Stamens 5, alternating with corolla lobes. Filaments white, flattened, joined at base, densely pubescent on one side, to 4 mm long. Anthers yellow, spiraling when mature, 5-6 mm long. Style white to lilac, thickened, 5 mm long. Ovary within calyx tube, 3-locular. Placentation axile.

Campanula_americana_calyx.jpg Calyces.

© SRTurner

Campanula_americana_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Campanula_americana_flower2.jpg Flower and receptive stigma.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Capsules 5-12 mm long, 3-4 mm in diameter, obconic, 3-locular, erect or ascending, dehiscing by 3 round pores near the tip; seeds 0.8-1.2 mm long, 0.8-1.0 mm wide, flattened, often with a thin, winglike margin.

Flowering - July - September.

Habitat - Forest openings, streambanks, roadsides, ditches.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None close.

Other info. - This species is abundant throughout Missouri. Its U.S. distribution includes most of the eastern half of the country, and it also extends into Canada. It is easily identified by its stout, tall habit, blue flowers, and exserted, curved style. It typically grows as a biennial, with vegetative rosettes of broadly ovate leaves overwintering. The plant is popular in cultivation and grows easily from seed. It would make an attractive addition to any garden.

C. americana does not appear to be closely related to other members of the genus, and some authors have segregated it into its own genus, Campanulastrum.

This species produces pollen while the anthers are still enclosed in the unopened bud. The pollen is shed onto the immature style, which is equipped with bristly hairs. After the bud opens, the stamens quickly wither, and the style elongates dramatically and adopts an S-shape. Insects attracted to the nectar near the base of the style become coated with pollen, which they carry to other flowers. The stigma at the apex of the style becomes receptive when its three lobes spread apart.

Campanula_americana_spider.jpg Flower and friend.

© DETenaglia

Photographs taken in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Shannon County, MO., 7-8-03 (DETenaglia); also in St. Louis County, 8-25-2018 (Kathy Bildner); also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 11-1-2011 and 7-29-2014, Matson Hill County Park, St. Charles County, MO, 8-16-2015, and along the Katy Trail near Treloar, Warren County, MO, 7-4-2020 (SRTurner).