Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest
The Harebell is easily identified by its fragile blue flowers, shaped like bells and heart shaped basal leaves which are usually slightly toothed. The foliage dies back in the spring as the flowers emerge on their erect stems with lance shaped leaves along the stem. Harebells grow in clumps flowering in the Islands forests from July to September.
The harebell flowers have five violet blue petals that make up the bell shape. They have 5 long green pointed sepals behind them. The petal lobes are triangular in shape and have an outward curve. They bloom on long thin stems either singly or in loose clusters through the summer months here on Vancouver Island. The flowers are beautiful but completely scentless.
The harebells are hairless creeping perennial herbs which have long, trailing stems with small, heart shaped leaves at the base. The stem leaves are quite long and lance like, and the blue, bell shaped flowers hang in clusters at the tips of the stems. Seeds are produced in a capsule about 3 to 4 mm diameter. The seeds are released by pores at the base of the capsule. The seedlings are very very tiny.
These lovely blue wildflowers of the BC coastal region are regularly visited by bumblebees and honey bees, providing an autumnal source of nectar for these insects.
It is sometimes called The Devils Bell and The Fairies Thimble as its reputed to have sheltered the fairies in the old country. It was called Harebell as folk believed that witches used juices squeezed from the flower to turn themselves into hares. The harebell can be used in remedies for earache that is made from the roots, just boil the roots, cool and then use as ear drops. Harebells are also used in a wash for the treatment of sore eyes, again just boil the roots. Other conditions Harebell is said to cure include depression and if the root is chewed, it may help to treat heart and lung complaints.