bellflower or bluebell, name commonly used as a comprehensive term for members of the Campanulaceae, a family of chiefly herbaceous annuals or perennials of wide distribution, characteristically found on dry slopes in temperate and subtropical areas. Members of the large genus Campanula, predominantly of the Northern Hemisphere, are called campanulas, bellflowers (for the delicate, bell-shaped blossoms), or bluebells (for the prevailing color of the flowers). Among the most popular cultivated species are the harebell, or bluebell of Scotland ( C. rotundifolia ), native to Eurasia and North America, and the Canterbury bells ( C. medium ), native to S Europe. (The names bluebell and harebell are also used for Scilla nonscripta of the lily family.) Venus's looking-glass (genus Specularia ) is found in the Mediterranean area and throughout North America. The giant bellflower ( Ostrowskya magnifica ), native to central Asia, attains a height of 8 ft (2.4 m); it is cultivated in the Puget Sound region. The family Lobeliaceae (lobelia family) is grouped with the bellflower family as a single taxonomic unit. The bellflower family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Campanulales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.