The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

Going Native: Bellflower

7 Comments

… or at least I thought I was going native by letting these Common Ladybells – Adenophora confusa? Adenophora stricta? Adenophora liliifolia? – pop up and grow here and there among my perennial beds. Confusa’d is right!

OR these may not be Common Ladybells at all, but Creeping Bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides, deemed to be a noxious weed, invasive, and even EVIL! Apparently there is a way to determine the difference … something about a glandular disk, bumpy appendage, flat base and sticking style … For those of you who would really like to know resources include Campanula rapunculoides, The Evil Twin and Adenophora and its “Evil Twin” revisited.

Either way, all of the above are European cultivations gone wild. A TRUE native to this area (NY) is Harebell or Bluebell Bellflower, Campanula rotundifolia, which has delicate, whispy stems.

But since I have observed many bees and hummingbirds use these not-really-native flowers, should I let them grow wild within the confines of my garden? I don’t usually let the seedheads stand over the winter to keep them under control. They are not taking over.

There are those that believe going native is to only grow plants native to the specific area of which they are in. Others that believe growing plants native to North America in suitable conditions is perfectly acceptable. Still others grow natives alongside exotics and cultivars. I am not sure where I fall on this scale. For now, Ladybells and Barberry live in my garden. Most of my plant purchases now seriously consider native origins but since I am a plant addict, I find it difficult to resist a beautiful bloom or leaf color. Hmmm …

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Author of the Violet Fern blog, artist, and master gardener.

7 thoughts on “Going Native: Bellflower

  1. I'm sorry to hear you have this plant!I just did a post last week on getting rid of it (it took me 3 years in my yard)HeatherRestoringTheLandscape.com

  2. now this is a topic close to my heart. There are noxious weeds that are beautiful and we should definitely avoid them. But as for natives or no – give me multiculturalism any day.

  3. I'm all for growing wildflowers — native or not — in the garden, so long as they're not invasive exotics that damage local ecosystems.The problem I have with a purist natives-only position is that plants and ecosystems are dynamic, not static. At what point do we freeze the frame and say, 'okay, plants that were here at this time are natives?' In the northeast US, are we talking about only those plants that colonized this area in, say, the 1st 100 years after the glaciers retreated? the first 1000 years? What about plants that arrived with the first "native" settlers? What about those that were brought here by the first European settlers and have naturalized? So I guess the question I would be asking about your bellflowers are: Will they spread and force out other plants that you want to keep in your garden? Will they escape from your garden and do damage to regional ecosystems? Good luck figuring out what you've got and what to do with it. -Jean

  4. Hello Violet Fern, I think it is lovely you have named your blog after your grandmother. I too fall in a similar place as you in regards to natives. I add more native to this country each year… but will never give up my peonies and other lovely plants that manage to survive in my jungle. I have inherited some nasty invasives that are impossible to be rid of… such as bishops weed. You bring up a very interesting point with this post. Lovely sun lit bells! ;>)

  5. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is interesting to read your views on going native. I feel we can strive to be native but nature, by nature, will be introducing and spreading herself around anyway. Michael Pollan makes a similar point in his book the Botany of Desire. That bellflower is looking pretty on purpose so we don't pull it up – interesting, yes? And Jean makes a valid argument on how do we define native? If a plant has naturalized here for a hundred years or more and is in balance with the environment, is it still not native? I am pretty sure what I have is not creeping bellflower because they do pull up easily and as long as I don't let them go to seed, they behave quite well.

  6. That campanula just showed up in my garden, I didn’t plant it. And while I’m sure it arrived in my garden by seed, it has white tuberous roots and spreads via those. Some years the flowers are quite pretty, other years there seem to be mostly leaves with no flowers.

    As for barberry, these shrubs were growing around the house when I moved in. I have found a few plants in the woods, so I am glad I got rid of the barberries around the house. Well, there is one still left that I have never seen berries on.

    I tend to not be a purist, thinking pretty much as jeansgarden does. But I love the native spring ephemerals and continue to clear out invasives such as multiflora rose and Tartarian honeysuckle precisely because they crowd out the plants I want to thrive. But if they could peacefully coexist, I wouldn’t bother.

    • I think I am falling in the “live and let live” category as well as long as everyone peacefully coexists. I did rip out my Barberry, too – they are invasive and I see them everywhere and here they are the perfect harbor for ticks which are a problem as they carry Lyme. I simply make it a point to buy native when I can and plant native where I can. I have noticed that since I’ve planted more natives I have many more varieties of insects and birds – that’s incentive for me!

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