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Native bluebells 

May 1st, 2017 · No Comments

There are two species of bluebell found in the UK. Native or British bluebell and non-native Spanish bluebell. Cross-breeding between the two species means you may spot flowers which combine traits from both.
The easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen. If it is creamy-white then the bluebell is native. If it is any other colour such as pale green or blue then it’s not native.
These other characteristics will also help you to tell the difference.

Native Hyacinthoides non-scripta
native bluebells

Native bluebells

Pollen cream-white colour

Deep violet-blue. A genetic mutation occasionally causes white flowers

Flower stem droops or nods distinctly to one side

Almost all flowers are on one side of the stem, hanging down to one side

Flowers are a narrow, straight-sided bell with parallel sides

Petal tips are reflexed (curl back)

Flowers have a strong, sweet scent

Spanish Hyacinthoides hispanica 

Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells

Pollen green or blue

Pale to mid-blue, often also white or pink

Flower stem is stiff and upright

Flowers are usually all the way round the stem, with the flowers sticking out

Flowers are a wide open, almost cone shaped bell

Petal tips flare slightly outwards

Flowers have little or no scent at all

Why are non-native bluebells a threat?

Spanish bluebell is a threat to our native species because they readily cross-breed resulting in the fertile hybrid Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta.

This is a problem because crossbreeding dilutes the unique characteristics of our native Bluebell, changing future generations forever.

Most bluebells in urban areas are now thought to be hybrids and a study by Plantlife found that one in six broadleaved woodlands contained the hybrid or Spanish bluebell.

Tags: Tim Whitcombe

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