Another Halloween just passed yesterday with many very cute children parading through town in a variety of costumes. A couple of times there were little bunnies that stopped at the door with charming diminutive voices saying, "Trick or treat!" How fun!
But, where, you might ask, do bunnies come from on Halloween? Did they confuse the day and mistake it for Easter? Well, here's a myth that just might provide an answer.
A group of us were on one of the bluff prairies recently collecting seed to disperse into the cleared borders. The grasses and flowering plants were mostly in their drab colors of fall already having set seed and readying themselves for a long winter. Yet one plant was still in full display, providing a refreshing smash of color and standing out conspicuously from the lackluster surroundings. It was Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, in its arresting blue-violet color drawing the eye like a magnet. Here is the spectacle:
Beautiful, especially on this brown, colorless hillside. It seemed to be calling out, "Look at me!"
Harebell is a common flowering plant of the prairies preferring full sun and dry sandy soil. It is often seen growing seemingly straight out the rocks of limestone or dolomite cliffs on our bluffs above La Crosse into which it sinks its roots into the smallest of cracks. It blooms throughout much of the year, including late into the fall. It is native to Wisconsin but also in the "old world" of Europe. In Scotland, it is known simply as bluebell and was used for making the blue dye for the tartans of the powerful MacDonald clan.
Now, here's the connection with Halloween. In the past, in the old world some called this plant "witch's thimble" because of a legend that witches squeezed the juice from this flower and were able to transform themselves into hares!
So, there you have it! Maybe the bunnies of Halloween were running around because of a charming plant still blooming on the bluff prairies of La Crosse in late October!