1. Family: Campanulaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Canarina L.
      1. Canarina canariensis (L.) Vatke

        Canary bell-flower is a beautiful scrambler for a frost-free greenhouse or subtropical climate, flowering all through the winter. The stems are annual, growing up from a thick, tuberous root. The flowers are orange or red, beautifully veined, and produce large drops of very watery nectar. After flowering the plant forms edible, black or purple, fig-like fruits, full of small seeds.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Canary bell-flower is a winter-flowering scrambler from the Canary Islands, with bright orange bells and copious watery nectar.

    Canary bell-flower is a beautiful scrambler for a frost-free greenhouse or subtropical climate, flowering all through the winter. The stems are annual, growing up from a thick, tuberous root. The flowers are orange or red, beautifully veined, and produce large drops of very watery nectar. After flowering the plant forms edible, black or purple, fig-like fruits, full of small seeds.

    Species Profile

    Geography and distribution

    Found only in the Canary Islands, on Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma and La Gomera.

    Canarina canariensisgrows on the margins of the species-rich laurel forest, growing up through brambles and bracken, or climbing into tree heath ( Erica arborea) at 300 to 1,000 m above sea level. Laurel forest (laurisilva) is a unique type of vegetation found on the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. The forest of each archipelago, and indeed of each island of the Canaries, has its own locally endemic plant species (species found only on individual islands or restricted to individual forest patches), making this type of forest one of the world’s centres of plant diversity, and of great importance for conservation.

    Species related to C. canariensis are found in east Africa, from Ethiopia and Kenya south to Malawi. 


    Canarina canariensis is a scrambler with a rootstock with many thick, tuberous roots. It is glaucous (covered with a waxy, grey-green bloom) and has abundant milky sap. The stems are fleshy, hollow, dichotomously branched, and climb or scramble to a height of 3 m. The leaves are triangular, shaped like an arrowhead, with blunt teeth and deeply impressed veins. The leaves are 6-10 cm long, 5-9 cm wide across the lower lobes, and are borne opposite each other on the stem.

    The flowers are solitary and are borne at the ends of shoots, the stems then forming two further branches from the leaf axils. The calyx has six narrow, spreading lobes. The corolla is orange or red, with distinct purple veins and is campanulate (bell-shaped), with six pointed lobes. The style is club-shaped at first, dividing at maturity into six recurved stigmas. The fruits are ovoid, formed by the swollen ovary, topped by the persistent calyx lobes and are reddish, purplish or black when ripe. The fruits are sweet and sticky.

    Bird-pollinated flowers

    The genus Canarinais interesting in being a small, diverse group of Canary Island flowers which appear to be adapted to pollination by sunbirds. Sunbirds are not found in the Canaries today, though they are common in eastern and southern Africa. The stiff-textured, orange flowers and copious watery nectar are characteristic of bird-pollinated flowers and birds such as tits and finches have been observed visiting the flowers. Digitalis( Isoplexis) species, Lavatera phoeniceaand Lotus berthelotiialso appear to be specially adapted to bird pollination.


    Canarina canariensis has a long history of cultivation in England. It is recorded by Philip Miller as being grown in the royal garden at Hampton Court in 1696.

    The fruits of Canary bell-flower ('bicacaros') are edible. They were among the wild fruits eaten by the Guanches, early settlers on the Canary Islands who may have arrived from North Africa between 2-3,000 years ago.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those likely to be of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank:TwoSeed storage behaviour:Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)Germination testing:80% germination achieved on a 1% agar medium, at a temperature of 16°C, on a cycle of 12 hours daylight/12 hours darkness. 95% germination achieved on a 1% agar medium + 250 mg/l gibberellic acid (GA3), at a temperature of 15°C, on a cycle of 8 hours daylight/16 hours darkness.


    Canary bell-flower is easily grown in a large pot of sandy soil, with the stems trained up a tall support and then allowed to hang down. It should be allowed to dry out during the summer when the stems die down, and watered again in late autumn after growth begins. Care should be taken to allow the soil to become almost dry between waterings; some high potash liquid feed will help to build up a strong plant.

    Propagation is best by seed, formed from the cross-pollination of two clones. Propagation can also be achieved by division of the dormant roots, but care should be taken to ensure that each piece has a portion of the rootstock attached, and that any broken piece is allowed to dry before replanting. The stems are frost-tender, being killed by temperatures of about -2°C. 

    This species at Kew

    At Kew C anarina canariensis can be seen planted in the ground in the Canary Islands section (zone 3) of the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Although it grows in partial shade in the wild, in more northern areas it is best grown with as much winter sun as possible.

    Margins of laurel forest (mild temperate forest).
    Not considered to be threatened, but vulnerable to habitat destruction, particularly on Gran Canaria.

    The milky sap can be an irritant.

    Ornamental; edible fruits.



    Found In:

    Canary Is.

    Common Names

    Canary bell-flower

    Canarina canariensis (L.) Vatke appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Linnaea 38: 700 (1874)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2011) Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 3: 1-449. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
    • [3] Govaerts, R. (1999) World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. MIM, Deurne.


    • [2] Valido, A., Dupont, Y.L. & Olesen, J.M. (2004). Bird–flower interactions in the Macaronesian islands. J. of Biogeogr. 31: 1945–1953.
    • [4] Bramwell, D. (1994). Canary Islands, Spain (Autonomous Region). In: Davis, S.D., Heywood, V.H. and Hamilton, A.C. (eds) (1994). Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for their Conservation. Volume 1: Europe, Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East. IUCN Publications Unit, Cambridge. 89-91.
    • [5] Darias, V., Bravo, L., Barquin, E., Martin Herrera, D. and Fraile, C. (1986). Contribution to the ethnopharmacological study of the Canary Islands. J. Ethnopharmacol. 15(2): 169-193.
    • [6] Bramwell, D. & Bramwell, Z.I. (1984). Wild Flowers of the Canary Islands. Stanley Thornes, Cheltenham, England.
    • [7] Curtis, W. (1799). Canarina campanula. Curtis’s Bot. Mag., t. 444.


    International Plant Names Index
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    Kew Species Profiles
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    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
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