Bluebell Flowers: Beautiful and Whimsical Perennials
Once a year, for a few days only, magic happens...
Bluebell flowers grow from North America to North Africa and are a favorite flower, no matter which side of the Atlantic they grow on. The flowers are seen in gardens and along pathways, gracing meadows and glens, tucked away in shady forest areas and carpeting woodlands.
Bluebells poke their heads out in spring, usually between April and May and are a welcome messenger of warmer weather. Bluebells can bloom through the summer months, if conditions are right.
The flowers are enchanting, shaped as they are into captivating bells and painted in sky blue. Whether you come across one or many, they are sure to catch your eye.
Delicate little bluebells could almost make one believe in fairies and magical things, and it comes as no surprise that the bells are believed by some to actually call fairies to their meetings.
If you are fortunate enough to encounter these flowers, your spirits will be surely lift. Indeed, how much better our world has been and is, blessed by lovely bluebell flowers.
There's a little flower up yonder, the last bud from the multitude of bluebells that clouded those turf steps in July with a lilac mist.
~ Nelly Dean in Wuthering Heights— Emily Bronte
So Very Delicate and Pretty
Is a Fairy or a Sprite Living Inside?
Perhaps, another reason these flowers are so charming is that they are shaped like little bells.
Bluebells are also called:
- Auld man's bell
- Bush tucker (Australian bluebell)
- Common bluebell
- English bluebell (Europe, British Isles, most often found in woods)
- Scottish bluebells
- Spanish bluebells (Europe, British Isles, most often seen in gardens)
- Virginia bluebell (Canada, U.S.)
- Wild hyacinth
- Wood bells
Electric-Blue Floral Bells Make Striking Contrast Against the Green
Different Types of Bluebells
- Hyacinthoides non-scripta, grows in woodlands and in other shady places
- Hyacinthoides hispanica, also known as the Spanish bluebell shows up in gardens and can grow out in the countryside
- Hyacinthoides x massartiana is a common hybrid
Lingering in Hollows
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.— Emily Bronte
Sky-Blue Hyacinthoides Non-Scripta--Hue is Striking
How Many Types of Bluebells Around the World?
There are 11 known types of bluebells around the globe. DNA studies have helped scientists to identify and classify bluebells.
- Bluebells are a perennial and, as such, are usually grown from a bulb, although seeds are available.
- They've been spotted growing in shady areas, such as woodlands, under trees and under bracken and even near sea cliffs.
- While they are common in the British Isles they do not grow in all places in Britain.
- Hybridization has occurred, which, it is believed, has impacted natural bluebells, due to invasive Spanish bluebells.
Take a Walk in A Bluebell Wood...
Actual bluebell woods are found in all parts of Great Britain, in Ireland and in other locations in Europe.
Bluebells make their appearance in areas where new leaves form a canopy above. Bluebells thrive in shady areas and will carpet the forest floor, suppressing competing ground cover, but for all that, lending a charming effect.
Bluebells Create a Bluish-Purple Mist in Ancient Woodlands
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers
Ann Bronte, The Bluebell
Bluebells and Climate Change
While bluebells herald the start of spring they may give clues to climate change. Is hybridization altering genes and flowering time or is climate change responsible?
Protection of Bluebell Woods and Bluebell Walks
Efforts are in place to protect bluebell woods along with other ancient woodlands and to identify and preserve bluebell flowers for future generations.
In Britain, through the months April-June, the Bluebells Walks Season is geared at encouraging people to participate in up to 100 Bluebell Walks, in an effort to spot and identify bluebells growing in Britain.
The Bluebell Walks season is designed to help preserve bluebells in Great Britain. This effort has been initiated in concert with the Natural History Museum, aimed at gaining a better understanding of factors that are impacting on the bluebell.
Those who participate in Bluebell Walks are instructed to try to find different types of bluebells and include their findings in an online survey conducted by the Natural History Museum. This data will be used to chart where different types of bluebells are flowering.
Free Bluebell Walks
Some of the best displays of bluebells can be found in National Trust woodlands and in parks in Great Britain, in Wales, and in Ireland.
- Bunker's Hill Wood
- Daisy Hill Wood
- Duncliff Wood
- Forest of Dean
- Foxley Wood
- Heartwood Forest
Let's Go for a Meander in the Bluebell Woods
Protecting Bluebells for Future Generations
The common bluebell is so revered, it is now protected in the United Kingdom. The National Trust is active in preserving the Nation's bluebells for posterity and many hectares of woodland are now protected.
Additionally, gardeners are cautioned against planting Spanish or hybrid bluebells near native populations.
Forest Floor Carpeted in Bluebells--in a Quiet, Shady Corner ... Delight at Every Turn ...
Scottish Bluebell--Campanula Rotundifolia
Not to be forgotten, the Scottish bluebell is another variety that has a clearly defined bell and is every bit as lovely as its counterpart. It is also known as the Harebell. This is the best known Canadian species and it is found from the Yukon Territory to the Atlantic provinces.
In Canada, bluebells flower somewhat later, making an appearance from June through August.
This type of bluebell has a clearly defined "hood."
Bluebells Under Threat
Unfortunately, beloved bluebells are so treasured by gardeners that they've become an income source to those who flout the law and dig them up and sell them to those eager to plant them in home gardens. This practice, according to Wildlife Trusts, has imperiled the bluebells. It can take over 100 years for a bluebell wood to recover and become established. It is a criminal offense, in fact, to remove bluebells. And one can see why.
How to Plant Blubells
Native Australian Bluebell
Another beautiful bluebell is called the Australian bluebell (Wahlenbergia stricta). This flower does not have the classic bell shape but is the most lovely shade of pale blue.
These little gems are edible and can be used to pretty up punches or for decorating sweets.
Have You Tried Growing Bluebells?
A Perfect Home for the Fairies
Step Into Enchantment...
The bells can range in color from:
- Blue (the blue color is clearly a favorite)
No Work Today ... Let's Go and Play in the Bluebell Woods
Wherever they are found, bluebell flowers are clearly captivating, bringing delight to the soul and senses.
© 2010 Athlyn Green