The genus name Campanula is derived from the Latin campana meaning ‘bell’ alluding to the bell-shaped flowers. The specific epithet, rotundifolia, refers to the plant’s rounded basal leaves. The common name ‘harebell’ is believed to have come from the fact that the plant is sometimes found in areas home to hares/rabbits.
In days past, the Blue Harebell had many uses beyond solely beautifying the landscape. The Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest called Blue Harebell “blue rain flowers” as it was thought that picking them would bring rain. In Europe, leaves were eaten raw for medicinal purposes while the Chippewa used the roots to make eardrops to soothe earaches. During medieval times, Blue Harebell was used to prevent nightmares, as well as to treat spider bites.
Digging into folklore revealed that Blue Harebells have quite the reputation, with ties to the magical and fantastical. Some believe that Blue Harebell, aka Witch’s Bells, was named because sorceresses used the flower juice to transform into hares, concealing themselves. Blue Harebells are said to be the favorite flower of woodland fairies. So very sweet — until its bells are rung, at which time the fae are summoned, stealing children, and leaving adults wandering in the woods for years on end. Yikes! And finally, a wreath of harebells placed around the neck of a beau is said to coerce the wearer to reveal their true feelings – good, bad, or otherwise!