Our native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are a sight not to be missed here in our ancient woodlands, fleetingly here for only a few weeks. Millions of bulbs create scented violet-blue carpets that are such a springtime joy to walk through.
See them on Monument (Tittensor) Hill, or in Kingswood. These bluebell displays are in recovery following restoration clearance of hectares of invasive rhododendron which had smothered the displays. They are gradually recovering now the evergreen shade had been removed. This early flowering allows them to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to the forest floor habitat before the canopy becomes too thick. Native bluebells are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.
Native bluebells have narrow leaves. Their flowers are along one side of a distinctive drooping stem, deep violet-blue (sometimes white), narrow and tubular-bell shaped, with tips that curl back. Sweetly scented, the creamy pollen is popular with many species of bumblebees.
Unfortunately, the native bluebell is at risk from the vigorous and prolific Spanish bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica, a Victorian garden introduction. Disposal of the vigorous bulbs from gardens and cross-pollination by bees means our UK unique bluebells are at risk.
Spanish bluebells have broad leaves. Their flowers radiate all around the upright stem, are pale blue (often white or pink), with spreading and open tips and are scentless. Their blue or pale green-coloured pollen cross fertilises easily with our native bluebell creating seed. If you live near native bluebell woodlands, you can help to conserve them by not having Spanish bluebells in your garden displays.