Bluebells spend most of the year as bulbs underground in ancient woodlands, only emerging to flower and leaf from April onwards. This early spring flowering allows them to make the most of the sunlight that is still able to make it to their forest floor habitat and attracts the attention of plenty of pollinating insects. Millions of bulbs may exist in one bluebell wood, causing the blue carpets we so keenly associate with spring, and new plants are sometimes able to split off from these bulbs and grow as clones.
Bluebells are perhaps one of our most famous and unmistakeable woodland flowers – look for long and narrow, drooping leaf fronds and bending flower stems heavy with the nodding, blue bells that give this flower its name.
- Height: up to 50cm
Protected in the UK under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.
Widespread throughout ancient woodlands
When to see
April – May
- The bluebell’s Latin name, Hyacinthoides, comes from a Greek myth: when the Prince Hyacinthus died, the tears of the god Apollo spelled the word ‘alas’ on the petals of the hyacinth flower that sprang up from his blood. Non-scripta means unlettered and distinguishes this bluebell from the similar-looking hyacinth.
- The sap from bluebells has been used throughout history as an adhesive for books and arrows. The crushed bulbs were also used to create starch for ruffs in Tudor times.