Well it rained yesterday and even tried  to snow, so I didn’t get out to take some photos of the bluebells as hoped. It’s been unseasonably cold this month, although it’s a bit warmer today now the sun is out.

So I thought I’d write about one of our most loved wild flowers that arrive so reliably each spring.

Bluebell woods

One of my favourite spring flowers is the gorgeous bluebell. That stunning plant that loves to grow under the shade of trees and provides carpets of a wonderful violet-blue colour at this time of year.

Unfortunately many people grow Spanish bluebells these days. It may be through ignorance but I really wish they wouldn’t, and why on earth do the garden centres sell them? The Spanish variety is stronger than the beautiful delicate English bluebell so it’s cross-breeding and threatening our fantastic bluebell woods.

Here’s how you can tell the difference.  This is an English bluebell.

English Bluebell

See the delicate little bells that hang downards on an arcing stem and flick upwards at the end of each petal?  Such a lovely colour and this is the plant you’ll see carpeting our woods in the spring.

Compare this with the invading Spanish bluebell.

I Spanish bluebellsuppose it’s quite a pretty flower but it lacks the intensity of colour and the delicacy of the English bluebell.

See how the stem is much coarser and upright? The bells aren’t really bells at all, being a completely different shape and without the subtlety of the English variety.

So look out next time you’re in out for a walk. Those you find in the woods will probably be the English variety though I hear they are gradually being contaminated.

If you come across Spanish bluebells in your own garden or a neighbours, you could do worse than to pull them up and destroy them. I don’t object to the plant itself, just the way it’s taking over the native flower, somewhat like the grey squirrels who have driven off the native and more pleasing red squirrels.

I’m reliably informed by Wikipaedia that the Latin name for the bluebell is hyacinthoides non-scripta, so I believe that makes it a member of the hyacinth family. It’s a perennial of course, growing from a bulb. And it much prefers the shade of trees to an open situation, at least in the UK.

Our bluebell is found across parts of Europe including Belgium, France and Northern Spain – I wonder how it survived hybridization in Spain. Or maybe it didn’t but perhaps hundreds of years ago it avoided cross-breeding by spreading northwards into other parts of Europe. It probably felt safe on our islands!

I hope you’ll take a really good look at a bluebell next time you’re out for a spring stroll.