Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Flowers emerge from April to June, our native Bluebell covers woodland floors creating a beautiful carpet of blue such as at Savernake Forest, West Woods and Langley Woods making one of the most spectacularly beautiful sights of spring.

Bluebell at Hagbourne Copse, WWT/David Hall


 

Habitat

The Bluebell is a perennial herb which is often abundant in Wiltshire’s ancient woodlands; it prefers native deciduous woodland and flowers before the full summer tree canopy develops. It can also persist in the ground flora of plantation woodlands which have been planted on ancient woodland sites and in our area it can also be found in old hedgerows and sometimes on road verges (its presence in these areas may indicate the land was once wooded).

Description

The fragrant cylindrical bell shaped flowers (at their best in May) characteristically droop and sway in the breeze once the flowers are fully open but in bud they stand upright. The flowers can vary in colour from sky blue to green or even white with cream coloured anthers (part of the male reproductive organ) and the stalk that supports them grows 20-50cm tall. The flowers are in clusters of up to 14 on drooping flower spikes. The leaves of the Bluebell are glossy green, fleshy and narrow and grow up to 40cm long. There is a form that produces white flowers; these are found in many populations.

Our native Bluebell can be confused with the introduced Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), and the two species may hybridise where both of them grow together. The most noticeable differences between the two species is in the flower, leaves and anther; in the Spanish Bluebell the flowers are often more erect and are arranged around the flower spike (the spike is distinctly one-sided in the native species), the leaves tend to be broader and the anthers are blue instead of cream. Hybridisation is a cause for concern on the native Bluebell population along with the large numbers of bulbs that have been collected for sale and the number of flowers picked.

Conservation

Wild bluebells are specifically protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) making it illegal to sell wild-dug bulbs. It is also a species of conservation concern in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).