Bluebells in Peril

The magic of a bluebell wood stays with you forever and once you re-enter any woodland carpeted in the mesmeric blue of this wonderful flower you are instantly in another world. The sense of peace that this environment brings, alongside the wonderful scent which inspires the senses, feels like a remedy to the world’s woes.

Bluebell by Don Sutherland

Bluebell by Don Sutherland

May has traditionally been the time to see woodlands bathed in the bluey-purple of bluebells but they are flowering earlier as we have warmer springs and you may have been seeing them for a few weeks now. It has even been reported in the Guardian that the drought will mean they will also flower for a shorter time.

With increased concerns about climate change the future of the British bluebell is in doubt. But climate change is not the only threat to this wonderful harbinger of summer.

The delicate little flowers you see in the woods are native British bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Many of the bluebells found in gardens are the introduced Spanish variety Hyacinthoides hispanica or a hybrid of the two, Hyacinthoides x massartiana. It is this ability to hybridise that is a problem for our native species.

Please help protect our native bluebells: if there are native bluebells near your garden please don’t plant Spanish (or hybrid) ones. Don’t throw unwanted bulbs into the countryside- dispose of them properly at your local tip.

Spanish Bluebell by Richard Burkmar

Spanish Bluebell by Richard Burkmar

So how do you tell whether a bluebell is native? (You must look at freshly opened flowers as the characteristics fade with age.)

-Look at the colour of the pollen.
If it is creamy-white the bluebell is a native.  If it is blue it is Spanish; a pale greeny colour and it’s a hybrid. To make sure you are getting the right colour look at a freshly opened flower.

-Smell them.
If they have a strong sweet smell they are native. Spanish ones have less of a scent.

-Look at the flower arrangement.
Are all the flowers on one side of the stalk? Native ones are, Spanish ones will be all around the stalk, hybrids somewhere between.

-Look at the colour.
Native bluebells are a deep bluey-purple. Spanish ones are a much lighter pale blue and hybrid will have darker stripes.

-Look at the petals.
Native bluebell petals roll back at the end quite tightly, Spanish ones are much less curled.

-Look at the stem.
Does it nod over at the tip? Native bluebells have a lovely curving top, Spanish ones are much straighter.

Remember it is illegal to remove native bluebells from the wild. If you want to grow them in your garden buy them from a reputable dealer from cultivated stock. If you want to see bluebells in the wild and experience the pleasure of the blue carpet visit one of our woodland reserves:


Bluebells in Castle Woods Llandeilo by L Wilberforce

Bluebells in Castle Woods Llandeilo by L Wilberforce

Coed y Bedw – Pentyrch, Cardiff. An ancient broadleaved woodland. Bus number 136 from Cardiff to Gwaelod-y-Garth. ST111827

Coed y Bwl – Castle Upon Alun, Vale of Glamorgan. Ancient ash woodland where wild daffodils and bluebells are in abundance.  Bus numbers 146 and 145 from Bridgend. SS909749

Craig Cilhendre Woods, Pontardawe, Swansea. Partially ancient oak woodland with some newer woodland areas. Bus numbers 122, X20 and X25 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Pontardawe. SN719022

Cwm Ivy Woods and Betty Church Reserve, Cwm Ivy, Gower, Swansea. Ancient broadleaved woodland with an abundance of bluebells and other woodland flowers, plantation and calcareous pasture and quarry. Bus number 116 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station to Llanmadoc. SS438937

Melincwrt Waterfalls, Resolven, Neath, Port Talbot. Spectacular waterfall and ancient oak woodland with carpets of bluebells and other woodland flowers. Bus number X5 and X6 from Swansea Quadrant Bus Station or Neath Train Station. SN822020

Castle Woods, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Lowland mixed deciduous woodland with an abundance of bluebells in a stunning setting. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. Bus number X13 from Swansea and the 280 from Carmarthen. SN623223

Coed Wern Ddu, Llanllwch, Carmarthen. Mixed deciduous and wet woodland with an abundance of bluebells. No known public transport. SN373179

Skokholm cliffs and bluebells by  Dave Milborrow

Skokholm cliffs and bluebells by Dave Milborrow

Poor Man’s Wood, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. Sessile oak woodland with a hazel understorey. Lower down in the woodland is an abundance of bluebells. On the train line – Swansea to Shrewsbury service. 280 from Carmarthen although the bus stop is a reasonable walk from the woodland. SN781351

Coed Penglanowen and Old Warren Hill, Nanteos, Ceredigion. A varied woodland which includes the county’s tallest tree, a specimen of Sequioadendron giganteum. This woodland has a spectacular display of spring woodland flowers including bluebell and wood anemone. The Aberystwyth circular town service stops in Penparcau, a 2km walk to the reserve. SN611786

Penderi Cliffs, between Llanrhystud and Monk’s Cave, Ceredigion. Oak woodland hanging on to the cliffs with a spectacular spring flower display of bluebell and campion. Bus numbers X40, X50 and 550. SN553734

Skokholm Island, St Bride’s Bay, Pembrokeshire. Old red sandstone island with a spectacular display of bluebells. No public transport. To stay on the island please make enquiries with Wendy on 01239 621212. SM735050

Skomer Island, St Bride’s Bay, Pembrokeshire. One of the most important sea bird colonies this island also supports a fantastic display of bluebells. No public transport. Day trips are available from Marloes, via Dale Sailing.