Tall among the summer trees, the spires of lavender-blue bellflowers relieve the Illinois woods of a degree of weediness and overgrowth into which by midsummer they seem to have plunged. There are nettles and tangles of bittersweet, bushy plants of tick trefoil, tall Joe-pye weeds and many more which transform the once neat spring woods into a jungle by midsummer. Now the slim, somewhat angular stems of American bellflower grow tall, yet never seem weedy. They may be two to six feet high, the stems set with alternate, tapered, thin, dark green leaves and milky juice. A tall spike bears blue, flat bells marked with white lines, white center, and out-curving lavender styles and white stamens.
Campanula americana L.
July - September Woods.
It is a biennial. The seeds which fall in late summer start to grow immediately, so that by frost there are small plants which look a good deal like blue violet plants. Other seeds remain and germinate in the spring. These plants remain low all the following year, but the next spring they begin to send up their tall stems and leaves which appear entirely different in shape from those of the first year plants. The plant blossoms abundantly and forms more buds, branches out at the axils of the leaves and often continues to bloom until heavy frost. Then the plant is dead. Its seeds have been scattered and will provide for coming blossoms.
At least two other Campanulas or bellflowers are native in Illinois. On sandy ledges in northern Illinois, especially at Starved Rock State Park and rarely elsewhere, the slender, wiry sterns of the harebell (Campanula intercedens) dangle their purplish-blue bells in the canyon winds. In marshes and wet places grows the marsh bellflower (Campanula apari-noides). The small bell-shaped flowers are white or very pale blue-white.