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     Campanula rotundifolia is very common in the Four Corners area; Campanula parryi is quite uncommon.  Click to see a typical display of Campanula rotundifolia.

     Linnaeus named this genus in 1753.  The family and genus names, "Campanulaceae" and "Campanula" are derived from the Latin, "campan", "bell". 

Campanula parryi
Campanula parryi variety parryi (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Cross Mountain Trail, August 8, 2007.

This Harebell is relatively uncommon in our area so it is a delight to find. Its flowers are larger than C. rotundifolia's, they range from light to bright purple, and they are either upright or slightly nodding at the end of the stem.  When you do find this species, you usually find just a few plants together, not the dozens that are common for C. rotundifolia, shown below.

Campanula parryi was named by Asa Gray in 1886 from specimens collected in Colorado by Charles Parry, an eminent  19th century explorer and naturalist.  Joseph Hooker called Parry the "King of Colorado botany" and many Colorado plants are named for him. (More biographical information.)

 

Campanula parryi

Campanula parryi

Campanula parryi variety parryi (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Cross Mountain Trail, August 8, 2007.

Several details help distinguish the two Campanulas shown on this page.  Generally C. parryi flowers are usually single, purple, erect, and the lobes are about half the height of the entire flower bell; C. rotundifolia flowers are multiple in racemes, blue, nodding, and lobed about one third of the flower bell.  C. parry has larger flowers.   C. parryi usually has long, narrow sepals (hugging the back of the flower) that reach to the cut in the flower lobes; C. rotundifolia sepals are much shorter.  The basal leaves of C. parryi are long and narrow; C. rotundifolia gets its specific name from its round basal leaves (which are dried and often not visible at flowering time).

Despite these seemingly clear-cut differences in the plants, it is often quite difficult to tell which plant you are looking at in the field.

Campanula rotundifolia
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Colorado Trail above Roaring Fork, July 26, 2004.

Harebells, also known as "Blue Bells of Scotland", are quite common from mid-summer to frost, from low meadows to high subalpine ridges.  They are found in twos and threes or in large colonies that give a delicate blue/violet cast to meadows.  (Click to see.)  Flowers almost always nod; color ranges from light blue/violet to deeper blue/purple; stem leaves are narrow and an inch or two long; basal leaves are round but usually withered at flowering time; there may be a slight amount of pubescence on the lower stem and stem leaf bases.

Campanula rotundifolia
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Colorado Trail above Roaring Fork, July 26, 2004.

Campanula rotundifolia

Campanula rotundifoliaCampanula rotundifolia

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Colorado Trail above Roaring Fork, July 26, 2004.
Lone Mesa State Park, July 2, 2008.  (Lower flower and bud.)

Compare the length of the sepals on C. rotundifolia at left with those of C. parryi at the top of the pageThe sepals on C. rotundifolia do not reach to the cleft in the bell lobes. 

The lower C. rotundifolia flower at left is the first on this plant and is erect (a characteristic of C. parryi) but it will droop as the flower stalk elongates and new flowers emerge.

Flower buds are erect and folded.  Notice the second tiny bud in the foreground at the base of the large bud.

Campanula rotundifolia

Campanula rotundifolia

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Montane, subalpine.  Meadows.  Summer, fall.
Rough Canyon Trail, August 16, 2007.

The name "rotundifolia", from the Latin for "round leaves", was given to this plant to describe the basal leaves, but as you can see, basal leaf shape varies. (It is not uncommon for scientific plant names to describe a characteristic that does not apply to all members of that species.  This is to be expected since plants are named from an initial very small sample (typically only a dozen or so plants) and this sample is from just one location.  Other locations, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of miles away, may have plants with slightly different characteristics.  If these characteristics are significantly different, they may be labeled a variety or subspecies.) 

The long, narrow leaves in the lower center of the top photograph belong to another plant; the other leaves are those of C. rotundifolia. The dark stem and stem leaves of a flowering Campanula rotundifolia arch in the upper left corner of the top photograph.

Range maps © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Campanula parryi

Range map for Campanula rotundifolia