Uvularia grandiflora Sm.

Large Bellwort

Uvularia grandiflora plant

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Rhizomatous perennial forb.

Stems - Erect, to 70 cm, hollow, usually branched into two forks above, usually arched near the tip, glabrous, glaucous.

Uvularia grandiflora stemStem and basal leaf.

Leaves - Alternate, the basal few reduced to bladeless sheaths, the remainder perfoliate, 0-2 normal leaves below the fork, several above the fork, rounded at base, acute at apex, entire, with 3-5 prominent parallel veins, somewhat lighter colored and sparsely to densely and minutely pubescent on the undersurface.

Uvularia grandiflora leaves

Perfoliate leaves.

This "sewn together" appearance is most characteristic of plants later in the season.

Uvularia grandiflora leaf1Leaf adaxial.

Uvularia grandiflora leaf2Leaf abaxial.

Inflorescence - Single flowers at the tips of short, axillary branches with 0 or 1 leaves, appearing axillary. Pedicel to 1.5cm long, glabrous. Flowers pendent.

Uvularia grandiflora inflorescenceInflorescence.

Flowers - Flower stalks 7-30 mm long. Perianth bell-shaped, the 6 tepals free, 2.5-5.0 cm long, linear to narrowly elliptic or narrowly oblanceolate, often spirally twisted, pale yellow to yellow. Stamens 6, free, the filaments compressed, 5 mm long, white, glabrous, the anthers 1.6 cm long, yellow. Style 3-lobed, connate in basal half, each narrow lobe with a linear stigmatic area on the inner surface near the tip. Ovary superior, sometimes short-stalked, with 3 locules, each with 2-6 ovules. Placentation axile.

Uvularia grandiflora flowerFlower.

Uvularia grandiflora stamensStamens (tepals removed).

Fruits - Obovoid 3-lobed capsules 8-15 mm long, the tip broadly rounded to nearly straight across, the angles not winged.

Uvularia grandiflora fruit1Immature fruit.

Uvularia grandiflora fruit2Maturing fruit.

Uvularia grandiflora capsuleDehiscing capsule.

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Forests, shaded slopes, ravines, streambanks.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - U. sessilifolia. Vegetatively the plant resembles Polygonatum biflorum and Maianthemum spp.

Other info. - This striking species is common throughout most of Missouri except in some of the prairie regions. Its broader range includes most of the U.S. Midwest and parts of Canada. This species is one of the earlier plants to bloom in the spring. The perfoliate leaves, sometimes appearing as if sewn together by the stem, differentiate this plant from its closest lookalikes listed above.

The roots and young shoots of U. grandiflora can be cooked and eaten like asparagus, and the starchy rootstocks have also been used as food. Traditionally, the plant was used to treat sore muscles, backaches, toothaches, and swelling.

This species grows well from seed and is worthy of more widespread cultivation. The genus name "Uvularia" apparently derives from the fancied resemblance of the pendent flowers to the hanging uvula at the back of throat, and this led to its use to a treatment for sore throat and other throat ailments according to the Doctrine of Signatures.

Photographs taken at Rock Bridge State Park, Columbia, MO., 4-18-04 (DETenaglia); also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 4-21-2008, Little Lost Creek Conservation Area, Warren County, MO, 4-25-2014, and near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 7-21-2009 (SRTurner); also on 6-28-2019 (K. Bildner).