I recently came across a little group of the Peach leaved Bellfowers, I was driving along beside the river Vienne in France, a very beautiful area and this year the roadside flowers seemed particularly good.
Lots of Pyramidal Orchids which are easy to spot as you drive along. Also quite a lot of other Orchids like Lizard Orchids, which the French call Goat Orchids because they evidently smell of goat. These are not so easy to spot at 8o KM per hour as despite being quite large they blend in with the background vegetation. The Bellflowers stood out and luckily there was a lay bye not far down the road so I could stop and walk back to observe and photograph them.
They were the Peach-leaved species, because the splits in the petals do not cut back that deeply and each stem only had a few flowers on it. Many of the flowers had attracted some little metallic green beetles, no doubt helping out with the pollination process. The stigma which splits into three is very noticeable.
They are found in Britain, mainly in the south but frequently they are garden escapes. They are perennials so once established they will endure for many years providing the hedge cutter and sprayers do not interfere. Along the sides of the roads in France they often cutback a strip of about 150cm right beside the road but then leave the rest and this seems to me to be a good compromise. Incidentally the beetles in the photograph are called Thick Legged Flower Beetle, Oedemera nobilis, and it is only the males that have the muscly thighs.
So far I do not have any photographs of the Giant Bellflower though it is supposed to be present in the Wye valley area. So I present you with this picture of a Russian stamp on which it is featured! It shows the deeper splits between the five fused petals that make up the bell also that the flower spike has more flowers and lots of leaves all the way up.
Evidently there is a pub in Yorkshire called the Giant Bellflower, which is an unusual name for a pub. It is in Selby and the reason for its name was that a famous herbalist lived in the area. This is an extract from their web site.
‘Thomas Johnson was born in Selby in the early 17th century. A ‘learned, amiable, brave man’, he was a leading herbalist of his day, recording many examples of the giant bellflower found on the banks of the River Ouse which flows through Selby. Johnson combined his work as an apothecary with botanical excursions around England and Wales, publishing many books about his discoveries. He later fought for the Royalists in the Civil War and was ‘mortally wounded’.
There ….. not a lot a people knew that.
Update…. July 2019 I was staying in Cambridgeshire, the very south of the county and came across these Bellflowers growing in a hedge. Almost certainly garden escapes. (The BSBI does not have any recordings for this species in the area where I saw this plant growing).
In the Giant Bellflower the split between the petals making up the bell, is much deeper. However the sepals were completely hairless which is a characteristic of the Giant Bellflower.