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If you find a plant with beautiful flowers, alternate leaves, and milky sap, it may belong to the Harebell family. Excluding the Lobelias (described below), members of the Harbell family have delicate, bell-shaped flowers, which are bisexual and mostly regular. There are 5 (sometimes 3, 4, or 10) separate sepals, 5 (rarely 4) united petals, and 5 stamens. Flowers are most often blue, purple, or white. The ovary is positioned inferior or partly so, and consists of 3 (sometimes 2 or 5) united carpels, as indicated by the number of styles. Partition walls are present, forming an equal number of chambers. False partitions may make it seem like more chambers. The ovary matures as a capsule (rarely a berry) with numerous seeds. Worldwide, there are about 70 genera and 2,000 species. Many species contain inulin polysaccharides and cyanogenic glycosides (Zomlefer). Laurentia provides isotomin, a heart poison.
Key Words: Bell-shaped flowers, usually with milky juice in the stems.
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Harebell Subfamily: Campanuloideae
Lobelia Subfamily: Lobelioideae
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