Bluebells – 9 Interesting Facts

1. Bluebells are protected by law

In the United Kingdom, the British Bluebell is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is a criminal offence to uproot the wild common bluebell from land on which it naturally grows. Any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds is also an offence, carrying fines of up to £5000 per bulb.

2. Bluebells are known by many names

Known as Common Bluebells, English Bluebells, British Bluebells, wood bells, fairy flowers and wild hyacinth. Thanks to a Swedish botanist named Carl Linnaeus, there’s one name that groups them altogethers.

3 Bluebells were voted England’s favourite

In a 2015 Spring poll by botanical charity Plantlife, voters chose bluebells as the favourite wild flower of England. Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish voters preferred the pale yellow primrose.

4 Bluebells were important for winning medieval wars

The English Bluebell’s sap is sticky and made an ideal glue for fastening flight feathers to arrows fired by medieval archers.

5 Emily Brontë wrote a poem about bluebells

In 1838, Emily Brontë, author of the classic Wuthering Heights, wrote a poem dedicated to bluebells.

6. Bluebells contain cancer-fighting agents

Bluebells synthesise chemicals that may have medicinal properties. At least 15 biologically active compounds have been identified in bluebells that are thought to give them protection against insects and animals.

Certain water-soluble alkaloids are chemically similar to those used to fight HIV and cancer.

As well as this, folk medicine uses the bulbs as various remedies and to help stop bleeding.

7. Bluebells reach their greatest densities in the British Isles

Often dominating the forest floor with a violet-blue carpet, affectionately called “bluebell woods”, bluebells flower and leaf early in Spring and do most of their growing before the woodland canopy closes over. They grow well in old, dense woodland because the thick foliage limits the growth of other competing flora.

8. Native bluebells have a Spanish cousin

Victorians introduced the Hyacinthoides hispanica – the Spanish Bluebell – as a garden plant. It now grows in the wild and crossbreeds with the British native bluebell. This is one of the main reasons the British bluebell is a protected species.

9. Bluebells grow best in ancient woodland.

The presence of bluebells helps identify ancient woodland – what Americans call “old-growth forest” – that has existed continuously since the middle ages. Before about 1600, planting new woodland was rare, so woodland present at that time was likely to have grown naturally. Since bluebells flourish in natural woodland, they are a very easy way to identify ancient woodlands that could be of special scientific or historical interest.