Bluebells – County Durham

This area of woodland near the city of Durham, in the north of England, consists of mixed deciduous species, with the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) predominating.

The ground cover is fairly diverse, but in spring it is carpeted with Common Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). Although the Common Bluebell was, well, common when I was young, the status of this bulbous plant has changed somewhat. Hybridisation with the introduced Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) has meant that this stronger hybrid strain has taken over in some locations. Since the Spanish species produces less scent, you lose the heady perfume of a typical bluebell wood in full bloom.  In order to protect this quintessentially British landscape, it has been necessary to enact legislation, and since 1981, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (and a further prohibition to trade in bulbs and plants enacted in 1998) it is offence to remove these lovely flowers from their native habitat.

One item of note, bluebells don’t have to be blue! There is a very attractive, naturally occuring, white varient and these ‘whitebells’ can be seen mixed in amongst the drifts of flowers in many bluebell woods.

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