Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, November 2015
   Campanula punctata v hondoensis   - by David Ledsham
Campanula punctata enjoys a widespread distribution throughout Japan and Korea and may also be found in other parts of Eastern Asia. As with many species which are both widespread and generally occur in disjunct populations there are bound to be named subspecies and varieties as well as selected cultivars and hybrid deriratives.
 The particular variety illustrated here is Campanula punctata  var. hondoensis. This variety has a sub-alpine distribution in Japan and occurs throughout its mountain ranges, most notably growing on the sacred Mount Fuji and Mount Bandai.
It flowers in July and can attain a height of 20 cm, depending on local levels of exposure. In cultivation it has a nasty reputation for running rampant over large areas, a habit which probably comes in very handy when colonising bare volcanic slopes.
Funnily enough I've never found it to be that invasive and have experienced no major problems controlling it, probably because it turns out to be one of a number of alpine plants which are apt to spread vigorously at first but may then fade away when faced with anything like stiff opposition from their neighbours.
It has a very striking large flower which has earned it the local name of Yama-Hotaru-Bukuro which, roughly translated, means 'Mountain Firefly Pouch'. Allegedly this name alludes to a bygone pastime of Japanese children who used to keep pet fireflies in the flowerheads. As with many Campanula species the seed is quite dust-like and occasionally seedlings may crop up anywhere. I'm lucky enough to have a completely white form which now fills a large pot for which it was never intended.
One final culinary note. Apparently both flowers and leaves are quite delicious to eat and can be used in salads and soups. Surely every gourmet gardener should grow this beautiful plant?