Seen any Bluebells yet? It would seem this beautiful little flower is a good indicator of the water content of a soil and those woods and forest where they appear each year must have good soil moisture retention.
The quality of our Bluebells this year is particularly relevant following a very dry March so what will the crop be like in 2011? You can find out by taking a look at the National Trust Bluebell Watch: http://nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-chl/w-countryside_environment/w-nature/w-nature-bluebell.htm?campid=twitter . Or better still sign up to Twitter and get out and about in the countryside and if you spot Bluebells, take a photograph, upload it onto Twitpic, add the postcode of where the picture was taken, tag it #bluebellwatch and you could help populate the map http://bit.ly/gqfZu2 !
You never know what you might learn: how to tell whether bluebells are native ones or Spanish ones? For those who are interested the Spanish Bluebell, commonly grown in our gardens, is more vigorous than our native species and can crossbreed with the native to create a fertile hybrid.
This is a problem, as crossbreeding dilutes the unique characteristics of our native Bluebell. In a recent study one in six broadleaved woodlands surveyed were found to contain the hybrid or Spanish Bluebell.
• have narrow leaves, usually about 1cm or 1.5cm (about half an inch) wide
• have deep blue (sometimes white, rarely pink), narrow, tube-like flowers, with the very tips curled right back.
• have flowers mostly on one side of the stem only, and distinctly drooping, or nodding, at the top
• have a distinct, sweetish scent
• Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen are usually cream.
• have broad leaves often 3cm (over an inch) wide
• have paler blue (quite often pink and white ones too), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips
• have flowers all around the upright stem
• have almost no scent
• Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen usually blue (although this may vary a little).
Hybrids between these two are very common, with a whole range of intermediate characters. The hybrids are often abundant in gardens and in woods near to urban areas either way, if there are bluebells, there’s water in the soil!