The Alpine bellflower
AppearancePerennial herbaceous plant with ramified rhizome with a large underground stolon; short, prostrate ascending stems (3-10 cm), hairy, with large glandular hairs. Several sterile rosettes are present.
Leaves thickly tomentose, whole; the lower ones in a basal rosette, oblanceolate-spatulate; the cauline leaves progressively smaller, sessile, strictly linear and hairy. Flowers usually solitary, pendulous, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, arranged at the apex of the flowering stems. Calyx (about 1 cm) with triangular-acuminated hairy teeth on the margins, provided with appendices reflected between the one and the other tooth, 1/3 long. Bell-shaped corolla, with almost cylindrical tube, of dark blue or pale blue, rarely white, 3-4 cm long and almost as wide, with short lobes, obtuse, patent, at times with hair scattered at the jaw. Stamens 5. Ovary inferior. Stylus 1. Trifid stylus. The fruit is a poricidal pendulous capsule.
HabitatRocks, fine debris, gravel (limestone and limestone schists) from 2000 to 2800 m above sea level.
DistributionSub-endemic species of the Western Italian and French Alps, present from Liguria to Val d'Aosta and in the central Apennines of the Marche region on Monte Vettore (Sibillini Mountains).
EtymologyThe name of the genus from the diminutive lat. campanula, "small bell". The specific epithet from lat. alpestris, of the Alps: it indicates not so much the high altitude (alpinus) as the character of the rocky and rugged habitat where the vegetation is often small.
Properties and usesLike many other species of the genus Micromeria, it can be easily grown both in pots and rock gardens.
ProtectionSpecies with total protection in the Piedmont Region (L.R. n. 32 of 2 November 1982: "Norms for the conservation of the natural heritage and the environment") in the Provinces of Cuneo, Turin and Novara: it is forbidden to pick, remove, damage, keep parts of it, as well as to trade it both fresh and dry.
Endemism: endemic species are animal or plant species living exclusively in a given territory. When this is very limited, we speak of " restricted" endemisms. "Endemic" is not necessarily synonymous with "rare": rare species may have few individuals distributed in large areas, an endemic species may also be abundant in a given area, but be limited to that single territory.