By Debra Knapke
I have had a love affair with campanulas since I started growing them in the mid-90’s. Call me fanciful, but their floral cups and stars look like pretty blue skirts in the garden. And, if fairies truly exist, these skirts would be their fancy dress.
What does this have to do with Eight Maids a Milking? One of the special characteristics of the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) is that they contain a latex-based, milky sap that either tastes bad to predators or clogs their sucking mouthparts. Think about sipping on a rubber-glove cocktail, and you’ll get the idea. A plant has to develop protective mechanisms if it is to survive being eaten by any animal that wants a meal.
Other plants have used this strategy. The milkweed/dogbane (Apocynaceae) and euphorbia (Euphobiaceae) families also contain an unpalatable milky sap. The poinsettia, one of our favorite Christmas decorations, will ooze sticky droplets from damaged leaves and stems.
I have been told that these droplets are very bitter… I cannot confirm that from personal experience.
‘Wishing you a tasty holiday free from bitter experiences.