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The bluebell is a gorgeous blue flower that was originally native to the British Isles, Belgium and portions of France. Growing in the spring and blooming June through September , it is a perennial that has been extensively hybridized. The brilliant, hanging blue flowers grow from long and slender stems that usually face the same direction. Stems can be white or yellow.
The flower of the bluebell are about 1/2 and hang. The shape resembles a bell, hence the name. There are five lobes to the flower Buds change from pink to purplish and then to blue when opening. Leaves are a darker green color and can be two to five inches long and just shy of an inch to about 1 1/2 inches wide, egg shaped and bristly. Basal leaves on longer stemmed bluebells are larger. The plant can be from one to four feet high.
Considered a native and a perennial the bluebell, in Minnesota, ranges mainly in the Arrowhead and westward. There are isolated pockets further west and in the very southeast portions of the state. Nationally they are seen west of the Mississippi to just west of the Rockies, southern Canada to Mexico. Bluebells are fairly common along roadsides and edges of woods in northeaster Minnesota.
Folks like the bluebell. First, they look great and they can be easy to grow and not easy to grow, depending on where geographically they are planted. The seeds of bluebells last a long time. Not doing well in hot, dry and sunny locations, the blue bell prefers lightly shaded areas under trees. Being perennial, each bluebell produces up to 100 flowers so they gradually increase in numbers. Being highly tolerant, they can thrive in this reduced sunlight. Bluebells seen and purchased in nurseries are probably not native.
The legends and uses of the bluebell are many. In the UK they have a connection to fairy life. If you have an abundant population, they will attract fairies. If you trample the bluebells the fairies will be angered. It is also believe that fairies will “ring” the bell to attract other fairies. If mortals were to hear this ringing they could be in grave danger. Some parts of the plant are toxic. They are thought to be a diuretic and used to treat snakebites. Present research has been focused on this plant being used as a potential treatment for cancer and HIV.
Once associated with death, modern times has the blooms representing gratitude and humility. Often the bluebell is gifted to say “thank you” and to express appreciation of love or friendship. I am going to try to plant some at my place this spring.
LaPLant is a retired conservation officer based in Holyke, MN.