If you’re planning a last-minute spring break but are stuck for ideas, the bluebells here at Blackwood Forest could swing it for you. Right now, the bluebells are at their peak and the forest floor is a shimmering carpet of blue. I’ve been out with my camera to capture some of the magic.
Late spring light catchers
Associated with ancient and deciduous woodland, bluebells are commonly found beneath beech trees, such as those in Blackwood Forest. Their young shoots can penetrate the thick layer of beech leaf litter and they can flower and pollinate before the dense beech canopy closes off the light. This explains their brief appearance at the end of April and into May, flowering before the tree buds burst into leaf.
Six fascinating facts about bluebells
1. The UK has over half the world’s bluebells
2. In the past, bluebell glue was used on arrow feathers and the spines of books
3. Bluebells are protected under UK law and it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs
4. Bees can 'steal' nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the bell, taking the nectar without pollinating the flower.
5. If you see the occasional white bluebell, it’s a genetic mutation
6. Bluebell bulbs have roots that contract, pulling the bulb deeper into the ground. They are effectively planting themselves!
Nature’s fairy tale
Known as fairy flowers, bluebells have a sweet-scented violet–blue flower. Each stem has 6-12 flowers, usually hanging to one side, and 3-6 long thin leaves growing from the base. They are rich in pollen and nectar, and are chiefly pollinated by bumblebees. Bluebells can spread rapidly, sending out underground runners, on the end of which new bulbs form. They also seed freely and often hybridize when grown together. Bluebells are another of nature’s miracles, which, in the process of survival and growth, provide us with a natural spectacle to fill us with awe and delight.
Don’t miss the bluebells
It’s now or never for a bluebell break at Blackwood Forest (well, now or next year). In the interests of fairness to the other Forest Rangers, I should point out that the bluebells are out in many of our other Forest Holiday locations too – Deerpark and the Forest of Dean are looking particularly beautiful at the moment. But of course, ours at Blackwood Forest are the best….
Did you know?
It is fairly well known that Spanish bluebells are threatening our native British bluebells, but do you know how to spot the difference?
A vibrant violet-blue colour with gently nodding flowers branching out from one side of the main stem. The petals curve back on themselves and the pollen is white.
Photo: Peter A Mansfield
Paler flowers which radiate from both sides of the upright stem. The petals are less curved and the pollen is blue. A pale imitation of its British cousin!