The onset of Spring brings a variety of blue flowered plants such a bluebells, hyacinths and squills in our gardens, parks and woodlands. The bluebell is ‘easily’ recognisable. However, there are two or three different types of bluebells. The bluebell that is native to the UK has the Latin or Linnaean name of Hyacinthoides non scripta.
Its deep blue and scented flowers hang from an elegantly arching stem. It is found in abundance in many deciduous woodlands and hedgerows across the UK, though it is unusual or rare in parts of East Anglia and Scotland. The Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) is also to be found.
It is possible to distinguish between the two species – some of the differences are listed in the table below:
|Common Bluebell||Spanish Bluebell|
|Leaves are narrow by comparison to Spanish Bluebell, about half an inch or so wide||Leaves broader, often an inch or more wide|
|The flowers at the top of the stem droop to one side||The top of the stem is much more erect|
|The flowers hang from one side of the stem||The flowers are arranged around the stem|
|The flowers are deep violet blue||The flowers are a pale or mid blue, and white and pink ones are also found|
|The flowers have parallel or straight sides and have a narrow bell shape||The flowers are more ‘open’ with a cone shaped bell|
|The tips of the petals roll back somewhat as though they ‘want’ to touch the tube of the flower||Not such obvious curving|
|The pollen is a pale cream colour||Pollen is a blue colour|
|Flowers are scented||No scent detectable|
The spanish bluebell can hybridise with the native bluebell, giving rise to types that have a mixture of the above characteristics.
The Natural History Museum is trying to map the distribution of these different bluebells and it is asking people to complete an online questionnaire about the bluebells in their gardens, local parks, hedgerows and woodlands.
If you can help, go to: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/british-natural-history/survey-bluebells/recording/index.html
If you are interested in when plants flower, or when the first butterflies / birds are to be seen then visit http://www.phenology.org.uk/. You might like to become one of their recorders, sending details of events that you observe in your garden or woodland.