The Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are quite simply magnificent this year. The colour is the most brilliant blue and the scent that gently hangs in the air is a perfume for the Gods! Their cloth of blue is carpeting most of the woodlands around us this Springtime and makes a walk in the countryside a perfect joy.
Hyacinthoides non-scripta (formerly Scilla non-scripta) is a bulbous perennial plant, found in Atlantic areas from north-western Spain to the British Isles, and also frequently used as a garden plant. It is known in English as the common bluebell or simply bluebell. In spring, H. non-scripta produces a nodding, one-sided inflorescence of 5–12 tubular, sweet-scented violet–blue flowers, with strongly recurved tepals, and 3–6 long, linear, basal leaves.
H. non-scripta is particularly associated with ancient woodland where it may dominate the undergrowth to produce carpets of violet–blue flowers in ''bluebell woods'', but also occurs in more open habitats in western regions. It is protected under UK law, and in some other parts of its range.
Unfortunately over the years a related species, H.hispanica known as the Spanish bluebell has also been introduced to the British Isles and hybridises with H. non-scripta to produce intermediates known as H. x massartiana. This hybridisation may lead to the eventual extinction of the British common bluebell.
Hyacinthoides non-scripta is native to the western parts of Atlantic Europe, from north-western Spain to the Netherlands and the British Isles It has also been introduced to parts of North America, in both the Pacific North West and Washington.
Despite the wide distribution of H. non-scripta, it reaches its greatest densities in the British Isles,where ''bluebell woods'' dominated by H. non-scripta in spring are a familiar sight. H. non-scripta is found throughout the British Isles, with the exception of the northern Outer Hebrides and Shetland and it is estimated that up to 50% of all common bluebells may be found in the British Isles
Bluebells are a species of deciduous woodland over much of their range, flowering and leafing early before the canopy closes in late spring. They may also be found growing under perennial plants which also form stands with a dense summer canopy. They are most successful on slightly acid soils; the young shoots are able to penetrate through a thick layer of leaf litter and bluebells are often used as an indicator species to identify ancient woodland. Bluebells are also frequently found in hedgerows, and in the west of their range they can be found growing in open habitats, including coastal meadows.Bluebell flowers are rich in pollen and nectar and are chiefly pollinated by bumblebees, although they are also visited by various other insects.
Landowners are prohibited from removing common bluebells on their land for sale and it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild common bluebells.This legislation was strengthened in 1998 under Schedule 8 of the Act making any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds an offence, punishable by fines of up to £5000 per bulb.
In 2004 when the charity Plantlife organised a survey to find the favourite flower for each county in the United Kingdom the bluebell was banned as it was by far the most popular choice in earlier polls for the nations favourite flower. Walking around our woodlands in Spring time it is not hard to see why it is the Nations favourite flower.