Spring has sprung
You really know spring has arrived when the Daffodils pop up, but for me there has always been a special place in my heart for the floods of Bluebells that carpet our woodland in spring. At this time of year its hard not to notice them all over the place, but its when you get the chance to walk through the woods on a beautiful sunny morning that they really come alive. The sunlight through the still sparse foliage above creates patterns of light and shadow like waves in an ocean of flowers.
The Bluebell is found all over north western Europe in northern Portugal and Spain right the way to Romania. It has even been introduced in parts of North America. But its in Britain that the highest density is found. Its been estimated that up to 50% of the worlds Bluebell population reside in the British Isles and it’s ancient woodlands have some of the most spectacular displays. Flowering each spring, these dense carpets of flowers will only last a few short weeks before they are gone for another year.
Protected by law
Many people don’t know, but in the UK the Bluebell is a protected species. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is a criminal act to remove the bulbs to sell them. Things got much tougher in 1998 under Schedule 8 of the Act making any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds an offence, punishable by fines of up to £5000 per bulb.
However it is worth noting that the same act also prohibits the picking or destruction of any flowers on a privately owned property without specific permission from the land owner, so no you probably can’t pick them either.
Enshrined in folklore and history
Bluebells are famous for their rich folklore. In times past, when forests were forbidding places, people believed that bells rang out to summon fairies to their gatherings. Alas, any human who heard a bluebell ring would soon die. A field of bluebells is especially dangerous, as it is intricately interwoven with fairy enchantments. It is also considered an unlucky flower to pick or bring into the house. However, some believed that by wearing a wreath made of the flowers, the wearer would be compelled to speak only truth. Others believed that if you could turn one of the flowers inside out without tearing it, you would eventually win the one you love.
There is also Archaeological evidence has shown that Bronze Age people used bluebell glue to attach feathers to, or ‘fletch’, their arrows and Bluebell bulbs were crushed to provide starch for the ruffs of Elizabethan collars and sleeves. Bluebells were said by herbalists to help prevent nightmares, and used as a remedy against leprosy, spider-bites and tuberculosis, but the bluebell is poisonous, the bulbs especially are extremely toxic.