Our woodlands are home to over 50% of the world's population of Hyacinthoides non-scripta - native bluebells, but do you know how to distinquish them from the imported Hyacinthoides hispanica - Spanish bluebell?
The Spanish ones are far more vigorous than the native plants, which places our bluebells at risk. The Spanish flowers hybridise with them which then produce fertile plants showing a whole range of mixed features from each species. Overtime, hybridisation could change the genetic makeup of our native species, diluting its characteristics, weakening it and potentially evolving it into something else. The Spanish bluebell, was introduced into the UK by the Victorians as a garden plant, but it then escaped into the wild - it was first noted as growing 'over the garden wall' in 1909. It is likely that the escape occurred due to carefree disposal of bulbs and also as a result of pollination. Today, the Spanish bluebell can be found alongside our native bluebell in woodlands and along woodland edges, as well as on roadsides and in gardens. At a glance, native and Spanish bluebells could easily be dismissed as being the same, but a closer look reveals several recognisable differences between them.
Native bluebells - Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Deep blue, occasionally white, narrow tubular bell flowers with tips curled back.
Flowers on one side of stem.
Distinctly drooping stem which is coloured purple at the top.
Cream coloured pollen anthers to stamens.
A sweet scent.
Long narrow strap shaped leaves.
Spanish bluebells - Hyacinthoides hispanica
Flowers all around the stem.
Conical open bell flowers.
Straight pale green stems.
Blue coloured pollen anthers to stamens.
long broad strap shaped leaves.
This is a huge problem that the National Trust, and various other organisations are grappling with.