What’s the difference between our native and Spanish bluebells?

We are fortunate at Granville’s wood to be blessed with a stunning late spring carpet of native bluebells. They not only look spectacular in the mottled late afternoon sun, but also provide a vital food source for our early rising woodland pollinators and insects who, in turn, feed our dazzling array of feathered friends who call our memorial woodland ‘home’.

Once a common sight in woodlands across the country, they find themselves under threat from, not only the all too familiar menace that is the loss of habitat, but, also from a far more unsuspecting and devious source – the Spanish bluebell!

The Spanish bluebell is on the long list of plants and animals that has been brought over to the U.K. with the most innocent of intentions, but, with disastrous consequences. They not only out compete our native species, they actually cross pollinate with them and are well on their way to breeding them out of existence.

So, how do you tell the difference between our vulnerable native beauties and their continental, bullying cousins? The most effective way is by the colour of their pollen. Our native bluebells always, without fail, will have an off white/cream coloured pollen, whereas, the invading Spanish can have a varying green to blue pollen ….. but never white.

Call me bias, but, our native bluebells are also far more attractive with their more vivid and deeper blues and with their dainty bell-like flowers, usually hanging to one side and facing downwards (hence the name, blue-‘bell’). Now that we know what these beastly invaders look like and how they are making life more difficult for our placid natives, what can we do?

For a start, if you have a fancy for the spring time spectacle that is the bluebell bloom in your garden, ensure that they are native bulbs that you plant. If you are lucky enough to have a local woodland, do not, in any instance go and relieve them of the threatened native bluebells. We use the charity Habitat Aid for our seeds and bulbs.

This is a crime and believe me, if I caught anyone doing this, I would not think twice about reporting them …… or worse! Buy your bulbs from a licensed, reputable dealer who can prove their origin and then pat yourself on the back in the knowledge that you are doing your bit to help with one of our most iconic, beautiful and ecologically vital national treasures in their battle against the foreign invaders.