Thursday 12 April 2012

Are yours English or Spanish?

I am referring to bluebells in case you didn't realize. English bluebells are under threat from the Spanish kind mainly because they can hybridize with them and eventually win out as they are a far stronger species. So then, how do you tell the difference?

English bluebells have a thin flower stalk and most its flowers are on one side which pulls the stalk over to form a slight loop. The flower are very fragrant, with creamy white antlers. The bell is long and thin and has a strong curl backwards. Leaves are thin, anywhere between 1/2” - 3/4” in width.

Spanish bluebells are big boys. Their flowers are non fragrant, wider and have a flick back rather than a curl. The stalk is more robust and as its flowers tend to be around it rather than to one side, it doesn't fall over into a loop, remaining predominantly upright. The flower antlers range from pale to dark blue. Their leaves are also much wider, ranging from 1 1/4” to 1 3/4” in width. 

I'm pretty sure this one in my garden, like most of them, is Spanish. Just waiting for the rest to come out to check them.

Most web sites recommend that we get rid of the Spanish version as it will, like grey squirrels, overtake our native species. They are quite difficult to get rid off and most weedkillers will not affect them. The RHS suggest carefully digging up the bulbs, bulb-lets and underground runners, storing in a black bag for at least a year before composting them otherwise they make take over your compost bin. For the same reason, I would suggest we also don't throw them out into our council garden waste bins. They strongly suggest we don't transplant out in the countryside for obvious reasons.

More information and photographs to help you identify which bluebells you have can be found here:

Finally, for anyone who is interested, I have just upload some more of my work on my other blog A Liminal World. This section looks at whether our ancestors are still here, but in a form we can't see.

Herewith one multi-photograph to whet your appetite. This is my maternal grandmother Elsie James, nee Bean.


  1. I`m afraid the few bluebells I have left in my front garden are also 'Spanish'. I tried digging them out a few years ago, but dispite my best efforts there are still a few left I didn`t find. Every spring time, after they flowerd I dig and try to remove the rest. Can`t always get down deep enough to lift them. I`d rather have the native ones, too.
    Gosh, your grandma was a handsome woman! Nice pictures.

  2. She was wasn't she. I only remember her as a small child so finding this photograph amongst others was a great joy.

  3. Oh dear, I think mine are Spanish - and I was so happy that I had bluebells. Darn.

  4. Mine are Spanish too - we dug out loads last year , but there are still loads more- they just look messy in the front garden. There are some at the back and they don't look as bad because they are amongst the other things.


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