Campanula patula

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaCampanulaceaeCampanulaCampanula patula


A biennial herb of dry, well-drained, sunny sites on fairly infertile sandy or gravelly soils. It is found in open woodland, on banks and rock outcrops. Reproduction is by seed, which needs disturbed sites for germination, but which is long-lived, allowing the plant to reappear after long absences. Lowland.



World Distribution

European Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe; widely naturalised outside its native range.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 5

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3.6

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 772

Height (cm): 60

Perennation - primary

Biennial, including monocarpic perennials

Life Form - primary


Comment on Life Form

"now (New Atlas, Scarce Plants) treated as solely biennial"



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 118

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: -0.77

JNCC Designations


External Species Accounts

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Campanula patula L.

Spreading bellflower

Status: scarce


C. patula is a plant of open woodland, wood borders and rock outcrops, It is most frequently found on banks by hedges, roads, railways and rivers, particularly in disturbed sites, and it has been found on spoil heaps and land slips. It is thermophilous, normally favouring dry, well-drained, sunny sites on fairly infertile, sandy or gravelly soils with a low nutrient status and a mildly acidic to neutral reaction. It can tolerate partial shade but does not persist long in competition with taller more vigorous plants. It is tolerant of heavy grazing but may persist under lightly grazed regimes including open horse-grazed swards and orchards. It is strongly associated with the forest areas of England and is seldom found far from areas of ancient woodland. It is confined to the lowlands.

C. patula is a biennial reproducing entirely by seed. The seeds may need disturbed and sunny sites for germination and establishment. Second year plants can compete and flower in taller vegetation. Seeds in the soil appear to have a long viability. Plants occur in unrecorded sites following soil disturbance and may reappear in old stations after long absences. In the absence of competition it may be extremely persistent and it has been recorded for more than 130 years on one rock outcrop. Plants can colonise new sites and spread along corridors such as railway banks where there is suitable habitat.

It is in long-term decline and has suffered a considerable range contraction. Even in its core area on the Welsh Borders it is very reduced. Most populations are small. Early accounts indicate local abundance or profusion (Lees 1851; Lees 1867; Rea 1897; Turner & Dillwyn 1805). Direct habitat loss has contributed to the decline, but the plant has disappeared from many sites following the increased use of agricultural fertilisers, herbicide use along roadsides, and the cessation of traditional woodland management practices, particularly coppicing.

C. patula is found throughout Europe east to Central Russia. It has a distinctly continental distribution and is rare in the Iberian peninsula and western France.


J. J. Day

Atlas text references

Atlas (257b) Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols. Meusel H, Jäger EJ
1992.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 3. 2 vols. Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.