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Campanula rotundifolia

Purple Harebell flowers in a grass field

With its papery petals and delicate appearance, you might think the Harebell a rather fragile wild flower.

In fact, it’s incredibly tough and resilient. It needs to be given the environment it grows in: the harebell is a wild flower of dry, open places from the bare slopes of hills to the windswept coast.

How to spot it

Hanging blue bells on slender stalks. Grows 15-40cm tall. Roundish leaves at base, very narrow linear leaves up thin stem. (Source: the National Plant Monitoring Scheme Species Identification Guide).

Where it grows

Dry, grassy places. From mountain tops to sand dunes. Quite catholic in its choice of habitats: as happy on chalk grasslands as on acid heaths, and under tall bracken as on exposed cliff tops. However, damp is one condition that harebells cannot tolerate.

Best time to see

July to September.

Cultural info

  • It is the County Flower of Dumfriesshire, Yorkshire and County Antrim.
  • In the Language of Flowers it stands for childhood, grief, humility, and submission.

How’s it doing?

Generally stable although there have been some local declines at the edges of its range.

Purple Harebell flowers in a blue sky

3 things you may not know

  • The harebell is called the bluebell of Scotland (although a different species to the bluebell more famous south of the border). It is also known as the “cuckoo’s shoe”, “witch bells” or “old man’s bell” – the ‘old man’ being the devil himself.
  • Dreaming about harebells is said to symbolise true love.
  • In County Antrim it is a fairy plant, mearacan puca, the goblin’s (or Puck’s) thimble. Pick it at your peril.
Bluebell close-up.


Hyacinthoides non-scripta

A close up of a blue bugle plant.


Ajuga reptans

Cowslip Close Up.


Primula Veris