Bluebell Haze coming late this year

May 2010

Bluebell Haze coming late this year
Bluebells in woodland in the Vale of Edale

Photo: Margaret Oakes

Have you spotted your first bluebell yet? Regular walkers know that April is the month when woodland walking becomes a real joy because of an often spectacular bluebell carpet.

But that's not so this year. It's now into May and those beautiful bluebells are only just starting to appear. Unfortunately they are another 'casualty' of the exceptionally long, cold winter - and the frosts that continue to blight many parts of the UK.

Because bluebells need light and warmth to reach the forest floor before they will start to grow, many experts suggest it will be mid May before conditions are really conducive to growth - and that will be the latest peak in flowering since 1996.

This is at odds with recent trends when flowering has been earlier due to a series of warmer springs. Worse than that, it's thought that the bluebell 'season' may be shorter overall in 2010, being at its height throughout the UK at the same time rather than the usual gradual 'drift' in blooming from the south west of the country.

So what do you know about this iconic image of Spring in the British Isles?

Although found in many parts of Britain yet rarely in the rest of Europe, the bluebell is also known as Wild Hyacinth - its scientific name is Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

On a more aesthetic (if not melancholy) note, the romantic poets of the 19th century such as Keats and Tennyson thought that the bluebell symbolised solitude and regret.

Bluebells are found most often in deciduous woodland but are also seen in hedgerows, grassland, parkland ... and on some cliffs.

Identification of our native bluebell is best done by looking at the colour of the pollen in the most recently opened flowers at the top of the plant. If it's a creamy-white colour then it's native. If it's green or blue then it's not.

The major threats to the native bluebell's survival are the disappearance of its natural habitats, the unsustainable removal of its bulbs, picking and hybridisation with non-native species primarily the Spanish bluebell.

The situation has become of such concern to some experts that a variety of initiatives have been launched to raise awareness of the bluebell's plight and also to understand better when bluebells are now starting to flower.

See here for information on The Central Scotland Forest Trust's 'Alarm Bell for Bluebells'

See here to get involved in the The Natural History Museum's Bluebell Survey

See here for some walks that include woodland - but please note we can't guarantee that you will see bluebells!


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