If you enjoy strolling through a bluebell wood over the Spring Bank Holiday, you may not be aware that this beautiful sight might soon disappear, Martyn Loach explains why we should all be aware of a foreign invader.
Bluebells are such an iconic spring plant throughout our woodlands that it would be unthinkable if they were no longer there to enjoy. But the fact is that they are under threat from a horticultural armada.
You may not be aware that there are two types of bluebell, the elegant English version and a hybrid Spanish invader. Once an invited guest into our gardens, the Spanish bluebell has now escaped its domestic confines and is now inter breeding with our native plant.
Difference Between English And Spanish Bluebells
There are various differences between the two types. The English bluebell bends elegantly in the breeze and only flowers on one side. These flowers are much darker than the Spanish bluebell, they are scented and contain pollen that is cream coloured rather than greenish blue.
The problem is that when the varieties cross pollinate, it is the characteristics of the Spanish bluebell that dominate, and slowly but surely the delicate attributes of the native plant that we love so much will be subdued.
There are more bluebells in the dappled shade of British woodland than anywhere else in the world. It would be tragic if this wonderful sight were to disappear but eradicating the non-native bluebell is impractical.
However, you can do your bit by not encouraging their spread. Compost garden waste, don't dump it in the countryside and, the next time you visit a garden centre, buy some English bluebell seed that is readily available rather than the Spanish alternative.
You're spoilt for choice when looking for a bluebell wood to visit, wherever you are in the country they'll be one nearby, but don't forget that it is illegal to dig up the bulbs.