Thursday, 21 April 2016

British Bluebells

Up and down the country British broadleaf woodlands are once again magically carpeted in a haze of blue. It is widely acknowledged that our bluebells require their dappled woodland shade in order to prosper and thrive.  However, some of our bluebells also flourish on clifftops where they grow without shade and open to the elements. I first saw them growing on Devon clifftops as a child, and have no answer as to how or why they manage to suvive in what for them must be a hostile environment.
I can't answer this conundrum but I am setting off with 'high hopes' of seeing these clifftop bluebells once again.  
But before I leave I want to remind you of the differences between our native British bluebell and other bluebells generically known as Spanish bluebells.


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British bluebell 
Our bluebells have narrow leaves, deep blue (very occasionally white, very rarely pink) narrow, tube-like flowers, with the tips curled right back. The flowers are mainly to one side of the stem and droop or nod. Their scent is sweet, and the anthers inside the flowers are cream.
British bluebells are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - they cannot be picked or removed from their habitat.  However, because we love bluebells in our gardens, Garden Centres have imported the Spanish variety to fulfil those desires

Spanish bluebell
Spanish bluebells have broad leaves, and pale blue (quite often pink and white), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips. Their flowers are all round the upright stem, have almost no scent, and the anthers inside the flowers are blue.
The Spanish bluebell is now sadly causing problems up and down the country as it is much more vigorous and can crossbreed with our native bluebell creating a fertile hybrid. They are threatening the native flower as they corrupt and dilute its unique characteristics. If you look at a bluebell to check which one it is, and you find a mixture of characteristics then you have found a hybrid. If we end up with a population of hybrids then we will loose the original genetic material forever.
If you have Spanish bluebells or hybrids in your garden and live within bee pollinating distance of a British bluebell wood then there is a serious danger that cross pollination will be taking place. 
The swallows are back
Swallows hunting insects on the wing 
We saw them swooping across clear blue skies in Malta five weeks ago, so knew that they were on their way.
They have travelled from S. Africa, over the Sahara to Morocco, down eastern Spain, across the Pyrenees, through western France before crossing the Channel to come back home to us. Here they will spend the summer and raise their young.  This epic journey will be repeated in reverse towards the end of September, and on arrival in S. Africa they will then raise yet another brood. 

36 comments:

  1. Most interesting about the two different bluebells - lovely photos.

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed seeing them - it is a serious problem re: the hybridisation of our native bluebells

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  2. Oh, the British Bluebells make me smile Rosemary. They look so exactly like the skirts of the Bluebell fairies in the books I had as a child. A woodland carpet of bells is extraordinarily beautiful!

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    1. It is our little bit of 'blue magic' Patricia that we all love. I walked in this bluebell wood yesterday, and a grandfather was walking with his small granddaughter and introducing her to the delights of the bluebells at this time of year.

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  3. Lovely to see those Bluebells, I don't see them here very often.

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    1. It is strange how we have the majority of the Hyacinthoides non-scripta growing here, and there are so few in neighbouring countries. I was once told that they came to our country during the ice age.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, I think that we look forward to the reappearance of bluebells in your posts almost as much as you do the actual flowers. That was a foolish decision to introduce the alternate species in order to protect the original--they should simply have propagated the British bluebell. Soon we might have an new reason to sing the old Madden and Morse song, "Goodbye my Bluebell, farewell to you."
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - you are the last to receive a comment - the computer is just about to be turned off.
      The foolishness of introducing this alien bluebell really makes me cross. We need a radical rethink as to how best to deal with the mounting problem of foreign species being introduced especially by garden centres.
      I hope your prophecy is wrong 'Goodbye my Bluebell, farewell to you'.

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  5. Great posting. (I think I will bring my little camera with me on my walk soon. )
    More flowers and colours out, where you are. Colder again here in Norway.
    A very nice blog you have.

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    1. Thank you for visiting and your kind comment

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  6. Thanks for the information on bluebells. There is a vast difference. They are indeed pretty and I do like blue in the garden.

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    1. We love our bluebells over here and always look forward to seeing them each Spring

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  7. There were lots of wild bluebells on the prairies when I was growing up. They didn't look like either of the two you feature here, so must have been our own Canadian variety!

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    1. I think that your prairie bluebells are what we call harebells which tend to grow in Scotland - they are beautiful but more open and translucent.

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  8. Oh my gosh - are you off to Devon by chance? If so, enjoy each moment in my lovely county Rosemary, but be careful on the cliffs.

    I have both English and Spanish bluebells in the garden here! Perhaps this is not good after what you have told us. I started with English of course but found they just fell over flat on the ground and didn't bring me memories of the beautiful bluebell woods of childhood! Of course, back when I was a child, there was no law forbidding picking - we used to come home with armfuls! Perhaps because our Springs are very warm the English ones get overheated here in North Carolina causing them to flop. Then I found the Spanish ones - sold with the promise that they stand tall on strong stems, and they definitely do, so started planting them several years ago. I so hope Nature is kind and forgiving, and that both species will stand the test of time - and that the bees behave!!!

    Happy travels dear friend - Mary

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  9. Beautiful blues, Rosemary. Over here we are still awash in a sea of blue - Bluebells of various heritage and our native Camas, beautiful and useful flowers that are protected.
    The linocut is gorgeous!

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  10. How beautiful blue color, the first photo is my favorite.

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  11. A lovely photo of the bluebells in the sunlight. It really is the most beautiful sight to come across them when they're at their peak. And the scent is wonderful, too. It will be terrible if we lose our native flowers and the bluebells here become hybrids.
    I really love the linocut. It's superb and it's of my favourite birds, too.

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  12. There is nothing finer than entering a bluebell wood - it takes my breath away every time. As for Spanish bluebells I have a border of them and no matter how many I dig out (bucketsfull) they come back strong every year. I didn't plant them I hasten to add.

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  13. Beautiful blue of bluebells, hope to see them again in England when we are there within a few weeks. These bluebell woods are just fascinating..... I know the difference between English and Spanish bluebells, I'm afraid I hav in my garden lots of hybrids. So nice the swallows are back, I saw them here too, flying into the horse stable nextdoors, where they make their nest every year.

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  14. Rosemary, one day I hope to fulfil one of my dreams and that is to visit England when the Bluebells are in flower!
    Your photos will suffice this year! It would be a crime to lose the true native Bluebell to a Spanish invasion ( said with tongue in cheek)! It seriously would.
    Oh the swallows, what an incredible journey for little birds to make and twice in one year, isn't nature amazing.
    We are still watching David Attenborough programmes on Animal Planet, they always seem so short as we become totally absorbed.

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  15. Must be truly devine with the Bluebells in bloom.

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  16. I alwaye think I miss very little about the UK but you seem to nudge a lot of memories. Picking bluebells in The Wyre Forest at 9 or 10 years old being one for today.

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  17. What a gorgeous sight with this carpet of bluebells under the trees , english or spanish, i just love the color !

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  18. A very informative post re bluebells. We have both round here, which can be confusing until you look closely. Oh - swallows? Our House Martins are not back yet, I am watching. It's raining again, I fear they are still at the coast looking for more insects and the sun. Sigh, those lovely Bluebells, I must get outside! x

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  19. Love those beautiful English bluebells! Brings back wonderful memories.

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  20. Dear Rosemary,

    The bluebells must be one of the loveliest sights to see - much like the lavender fields in France. Thanks for sharing them.
    Happy weekend
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  21. In Hastings we have bluebells growing in all sorts of odd places - there is a large and healthy colony on a stony exposed bank at the front of our house, while the ones I have carefully planted among the trees at the back are not doing well at all....

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  22. It is hard to pull up Spanish bluebells, but when I find them in the garden I do. They're remarkably persistent. Beats me why we can't have import controls on things which will naturalise here and kill off the native stuff. Will we never learn?

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  23. Bluebells always provide a lovely sight.
    Thanks for the information too.

    All the best Jan

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  24. This is one of my favorite scenes in the English landscape. Every time I see the blue carpet of the British Bluebells in the wood on this blog, I’m caught with a fresh sensation. Thanks for sharing, Rosemary.

    Yoko

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  25. You know it's early summer when the bluebell woods and swallows appear. Nice photos. Another month away up here.

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  26. Dearest Rosemary,I have missed many posts...As always I enjoy to read yours .The English countryside is lovely .I hope that I will see a part of her the next week...Have a lovely weekend.Olympia

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  27. The beautiful bluebell pictures in your post remind me of a scene in Georgette Heyer's THE GRAND SOPHY which features a 'bluebell wood' - part of the mischief in a most delightful book.

    Love your son's linocut artwork too.

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  28. Wonderful these pretty bluebell fields! I have often heard of it, but never seen in natural. As we are in South England / Cornwall in midst of May, I hope to find one of those amazing flower fields... Thanks for sharing :)
    Have a nice week,
    Barbara

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  29. I also find it to identify the bluebells your guide was very comprehensive. The ones we have in the garden are Spanish ones, I sure the ones in the woods are British. Sarah x

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