Bluebells are one of those quintisencal elements of the British Sping. The forest floor carpeted in a lushous layer of brightest blue petals is an image we all know and love. However, this image is in very real danger of faiding away, and soon.
In 2013 Mark Ballard, curator of the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt, warned that ‘within the next two decades it will become much rarer for people to see a native bluebell wood. They are under threat and the British landscape, however beautiful, is changing.’
It is thought that this loss is partly down to our springs getting consistently warmer, but many are warning of the invasion of hybrids, meaning that even when you are seeing bluebells they may in fact not be fully British at all.
Spanish bluebells, which were first introduced into our ornamental gardens, are now being cross-fertilised with our native bulbs and are starting to rapidly take over our forest floors. Imagine a red verses Gray squirrel type struggle. The basic points are not dissimilar. The resulting hybrids tend to be far more vigorous and simply push out the more demure English breed.
Many believe that digging up a hybrid every time you see one is the answer, however it then forces us to consider weather this action, which may risk the extinction of all blue bells rather than simply the hybrids is worth it?
Is the British blue bell doomed to become extinct from our woodland with the only exception being a small island off the south coast? Will all blue bells die, including the hybrid? Or is it time to say goodbye to our breed and embrace the new?
Make a choice for your garden. Its super easy to tell the difference (the above two images are of hybrids, and in MY garden! I am ashamed). Native bluebells are a darker blue, and have scented flowers that grow from only one side of their curved stems. The hybrids tend to lack scent, and have lighter blue flowers that grow on both sides of the stem. If in doubt, snif.