One of the small pleasures of the British springtime is the arrival of the bluebells. Once they are in bloom again, you know that summer isn’t all that far away. This pretty, colourful flower (which is, bizarrely, actually a member of the asparagus family!) is native to most parts of the British Isles, thriving in our ancient woodlands.
However, the bluebells you see in the photo above are probably only part-British – and that’s part of the problem. True native bluebells are becoming rarer and rarer in some areas as a result of the rapid spread of the Spanish bluebell, a distinct, separate and highly invasive species which is also known to hybridise with the native variety.
Telling the difference between the Spanish and hybrid varieties is not easy (it took a lot of googling and reading and looking at pictures of bluebells before I concluded that those in the photograph are probably hybrids!), but the differences between the native and Spanish varieties are a bit more obvious, as you can see in these illustrations.
So when you’re out and about this week, see which type of bluebell you can spot before they’re over for another year…