Q Why are Spanish bluebells a problem in UK gardens?
A The Spanish bluebell was introduced to UK gardens more than 300 years ago and quickly became popular for its increased vigour. However, it soon became apparent that it also has the ability to crossbreed with our native bluebell species and can create fertile hybrids. This is a problem, as the hybrid plants have the potential to eventually overtake the native species. Currently around one in six broad-leaved woodlands in the UK contain the hybrid species.
Caption: A sea of bluebell flowers is a glory of spring
Q How can I tell which type of bluebells I have?
A What colour are the bluebell flowers?
The native species' flowers are mostly deep blue (although there are the occasional pink ones), while Spanish bluebells tend to have pale-blue or pink flowers.
Caption: The three types of bluebell in the UK
Do the bluebell flowers have any scent?
The native bluebell has a strong sweet smell; Spanish ones are not scented.
Does the bluebell flower spike nod at its tip?
The native bluebell tends to nod at the tip of the flower spike, whereas the Spanish bluebells have a much more upright flower spike.
What shape are the bluebell flowers?
The flowers of native bluebells are narrow and tubular, with the tips of the petals strongly rolled back. In contrast, the flowers on Spanish bluebells are more prominently bell-shaped.
How are the bluebell flowers arranged?
The native bluebell has flowers on mostly one side of the stem. Spanish bluebells have them arranged radially around the whole stem.
What colour is the bluebell pollen?
Native bluebells have creamy white pollen, while Spanish bluebells have pale-green or blue pollen.
What shape are the bluebell leaves?
The native bluebell has narrow leaves that are pointed at the tip; Spanish ones have much broader leaves with a rounded tip. Hybrids between the two are very common and may have some intermediate characteristics of both plants