Harebell or Hairbell; Blue Bells of Scotland; Lady’s Thimble
FlowersBright blue or violet-blue, bell-shaped, 1 in. long, or over, drooping from hair-like stalks. Calyx of 5-pointed, narrow, spreading lobes; 5 slender stamens alternate with lobes of corolla, and borne on summit of calyx tube, which is adherent to ovary; 1 pistil with 3 stigmas in maturity only. Stem: Very slender, 6 in. to 3 ft. high, often several from same root; simple or branching. Leaves: Lower ones nearly round, usually withered and gone by flowering season; stem leaves narnow, pointed, seated on stem. Fruit: An egg-shaped, pendent, 3-celled capsule with short openings near base; seeds very numerous, tiny.
Preferred HabitatMoist rocks, uplands.
DistributionArctic regions of Europe, Asia, and America; southward on this continent, through Canada to New Jersey and Pennsylvania; westward to Nebraska, to Arizona in the Rockies, and to California in the Sierra Nevadas.
The inaccessible crevice of a precipice, moist rocks sprayed with the dashing waters of a lake or some tumbling mountain stream, wind-swept upland meadows, and shady places by the roadside may hold bright bunches of these hardy bells, swaying with exquisite grace on tremuions, hair-like stems that are fitted to withstand the fiercest mountain blasts, however frail they appear. How dainty, slender, tempting these little flowers are! One gladly risks a watery grave or broken bones to bring down a bunch from its aerial cranny.
Venus’ Looking-glass; Clasping Bellflower Specularia perfoliata (Legouzia perfoliata)
FlowersViolet blue, from 1/2 to 3/4 in. across; solitary or 2′ or 3 together, seated, in axils of upper leaves. Calyx lobes varying from 3 to 5 in earlier and later flowers, acute, rigid; corolla a 5-spoked wheel; 5 stamens; 1 pistil with 3 stigmas. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft. long, hairy, densely leafy, slender, weak. Leaves: Round, clasped about stem by heart-shaped base.
Preferred HabitatSterile waste places, dry woods. Flowering SeasonMaySeptember.
DistributionFrom British Columbia, Oregon, and Mexico, east to Atlantic Ocean.
At the top of a gradually lengthened and apparently overburdened leafy stalk, weakly leaning upon surrounding vegetation, a few perfect blossoms spread their violet wheels, while below them are insignificant earlier flowers, which, although they have never opened, nor reared their heads above the hollows of the little shell-like leaves where they lie secluded, have, nevertheless, been producing seed without imported pollen while their showy sisters slept. But the later blooms, by attracting insects, set cross-fertilized seed to counteract any evil tendencies that might weaken the species if it depended upon self-fertilization only. When the European Venus’ Looking-glass used to be cultivated in gardens here, our grandmothers tell us it was altogether too prolific, crowding out of existence its less fruitful, but more lovely, neighbors.