Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta
It is April, the clocks have changed, the weather is warming and there is now a real feel of Spring across our countryside accompanied by an explosion of wild flowers. For many bluebells are a charismatic and iconic flower of early Spring.
In the UK, which holds approximately half the world’s bluebell population, people flock to so called “bluebell woods” to see swathes of blue carpeting the ancient woodland floor. Here in Jersey, we are just as likely to see them growing on our cliffs where bracken takes the place of trees in providing shade and shelter or see them hiding amongst the long grasses of our hedgerows.
The bulb and leaf of a bluebell contains a sticky mucilage rich in inulin that was once employed to bind books being both sticky and also toxic to insects that might have damaged the precious manuscripts. Elizabethans used the starchy juice to stiffen fancy ruff collars and millennia before that the gluey substance was used as a glue to fix feathers to arrows.
Although not classified as endangered in their native range, bluebells are under threat from the illegal collection of their bulbs and loss of their ancient woodland habitat. But perhaps here in Jersey the biggest threat to bluebells is hybridising with or being out competed by the more aggressive and robust garden bluebell -Hyacinthoides massartiana.
So could you tell the difference between a native bluebell and a garden bluebell?
Native Bluebell (top image) Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Deep sky blue
One-sided dropping raceme of flowers
Flower parallel-sided cylinder arched back at tip
Garden Bluebell (bottom image) Hyacinthoides massartiana.
Range of blues to pinks
Erect raceme with flowers not just on one side
Flower bell shaped splayed straight at tip
Help us gather information about our native bluebells by recording sightings in the wild of both native bluebells and escaped garden bluebells on the Jersey Biodiversity Centre website.
References: Flora of Jersey - Francis Le Sueur 1984, The National Trust of Great Britain, The Wildlife Trust, The Royal Botanical Garden Kew