In spring, woodland, heath and hedgerow take on a deep blue hue, as English bluebells begin to flower. Sadly this native flower is under threat from a European migrant, the Spanish bluebell, a much more vigorous plant, that invades the English bluebell's natural habitat. Originally brought in to decorate gardens, the Spanish bluebell is taking over.
English Bluebells, Butterdon, Moretonhampstead
Species diversity is important, so if you have Spanish bluebells in your garden now is the time to dig them up, destroy them and replant the native English variety. However, this may take quite a bit of effort, as the bulbs seem almost indestructible! Even a tiny bit of bulb left in the soil seems to thrive, so you may need more than one attempt.
How do you know that the plant in your garden is a Spanish Bluebell rather than English? This little guide might give you some pointers:
English Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Colour: A deep lilac/blue
Scent: Glorious scent
Perianth (flower): Cylindrical, with gracefully curved tips
Habit: Flower spike bends over so that the four to sixteen flowers hang in a graceful curve.
Flowering: April to June
Mardon Down Bluebells
Spanish Bluebell - hyacinthoides hispanica
Colour: Paler blue
perianth: cylindrical with straight tips
Habit: upright flower spike with flowers distributed around it
There are unscrupulous dealers who dig up native English bluebells to sell, thus further depleting this delicate species, so it's important to buy bulbs from a reputable dealer, or why not try growing them from seed.