There are few things that evoke quite the same sense of joy and excitement as those first pops of colour, peeking through the ground in early spring. We all agree, that in Toronto, by the time March rolls around, we all want some colour! Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), also known as blue bells of Scotland, lady’s thimble or witches bells, not to be confused with creeping bellflower, is a plant that delivers just that pop. Although not the earliest spring plant to show its colour, once blooming, it will continue to thrive from early June until September. The ideal habitat is sunny and dry. While commonly planted along landscape borders, it also thrives in rock crevices and sandy plains. Due to its limited height of 15 to 45 centimeters, this dainty plant could be overlooked if it wasn’t for its abundance of bell-shaped, five-point, rich purple flowers. Harebell is an herbaceous perennial. We are fortunate to be able to enjoy them year after year!
The harebell is a great choice for a pollinator garden. It is a wonderful food source for various insect pollinators, including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. For example, the leafcutter bee frequently visits and feeds on the nectar of the harebell’s flowers. The hairs on the leafcutter’s abdomen collect the pollen grains from the style (the tube-like structure found within a flower that contains a sticky platform where pollen is deposited). Another common visitor is the dinger bee, whose long tongue can reach nectar at the base of the style. Other visitors include green sweat bees, small carpenter bees, mason bees and long-haired bees. Small bees can climb down the base of the harebell to access nectar, while the larger bees feed and collect pollen at or on top of the style.
You can see that the harebell welcomes all sorts of pollinators, making this plant vital to the environment. Which wonderful creature will you see the next time you walk past a harebell?