Skip to main content

English Bluebells

Bluebells Mean Spring is Here!

The native English bluebell flowers in springtime only and covers woodlands with a haze of purpley blue. There is something ethereal and luminescent about a sea of spring bluebells and loved by many, even more so because they bloom only for a few weeks.

It is a sheer pleasure to be driving along country roads and to catch little glimpses of bluebells in the woods. Taking a bluebell walk through ancient woodland is a wonderful thing to do with the family. See my map below for the best places to see the English Bluebell! Discover how to identify the English and Spanish bluebells, where to see the best bluebell woods and the legends that surround this beautiful English wildflower.

Facts About the Bluebell Plant

The Botany of the Bluebell

The preferred scientific name for a bluebell is Hyacinthoides non-scripta and is a perennial wildflower. The bluebell is a member of the Lily family and grows from bulbs with shoots emerging in January.

By April they flower but only for about 1-2 months and have gone for another year by June. They carpet wooded areas because they seed profusely and multiple shoots grow off each bulb.

As you can see from the image, each flower looks like a little bell and they can be not only blue but white too. Despite their sweet appearance and wonderful fragrance, bluebells are poisonous and can irritate the skin.

Bluebells grow in deciduous woodland. This is woodland that has a summer temperature of between 15 and 20°C and rarely falls below zero in the winter, rainfall in these types of woods is moderate, between 1000 - 2000 mm per year. Deciduous woodland has broad leaf trees that drop their leaves in autumn and this makes the woodland floor very fertile and rich in nutrients for the bluebell to grow. You can also see bluebells under hedgerows, meadows and cliffs. Bluebells cannot grow in deep shade, boggy earth or where there is heavy grazing from farm animals.

Bluebells have a few scientific names other than Hyacinthoides non-scripta. They have also been known as: Scilla non-scripta, Endymion non-scriptus, Scilla campanulata, Scilla nutans and Agraphis nutans. There are many nicknames for this flower too; Nodding Squill, Wood Hyacinth, Chimney Bellflowers, Wild Williams, Bats-in-the-belfry, Gramfer Griggles and Witches Thimbles to name a few!

The blue bell is the sweetest flower

That waves in summer air;

Its blossoms have the mightiest power

To soothe my spirit's care.

— Emily Bronte

English Bluebells are an Endangered Plant - How to Protect the Bluebell

Sadly the Bluebell is under threat from woodland being cleared for farming or building, from people dumping their rubbish in the woods, deer or muntjac grazing, and from people picking or uprooting the bulbs.

The English Bluebell is also in danger of being taken over by or hybridised by the Spanish bluebell or Hyacinthiodes hispanica. The Spanish bluebell (pictured below) was imported to the UK in 1680 and is available to buy in garden centres, this plant is known as a "garden thug" because it easily hybridizes with the native Bluebell and populates itself vigorously too. Bees pollinate the invasive Spanish Bluebell with the English bluebell and this creates a hybrid specie called Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta. With both the Hybrid Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell, the poor less robust Wild English Bluebell is threatened with being eradicated by both of them. It's easy to get confused over what exactly is a native English Bluebell, take a look below at the various plants that could be mistaken.

The Bluebell is common throughout England and Ireland, but now is rare in the rest of Europe and completely absent in the rest of the world. However English bluebells are declining in the UK and have become a protected flower. It is estimated that the UK has half the world's population in wild Bluebells!

It is now illegal (since 1998) to uproot wild blue bells or pick them for sale without a special license from the government, and there have been a number of successful prosecutions against people who have done this. Read more about how to save the bluebell at the Natural History Museum

How to Identify English Bluebells - What do English Bluebells look like?

The native English Bluebell can easily be confused with other plants, which are also pretty, but not the real deal!

Scroll to Continue

You can distinguish a native English Bluebell by:

1. It's fragrant sweet smell

2. Creamy white pollen

3. The flower spike nods at the tip

4. The flowers have a strong curl.

5 The bell of the flower is narrower.

See above and below two stunning photos of the native bluebell, which give you an idea on how to identify them.

These are NOT English Bluebells!

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana)

The hybrid between the Spanish Bluebell and English Bluebell is another threat to the native English Bluebell. This flower is harder to identify, as it has many characteristics of both.

The main differences are:

1. The pollen anther (the little tube inside the flower that holds the pollen) is pale creamy blue.

2. Flowers are not as deep blue

3. Flowers do not drop as uniformly as the native variety.

4. Colours can be pink or white as well as blue.

Spanish Bluebell

The Spanish Bluebell

(Hyacinthoides hispanica)

This robust plant is one of the reasons why our English bluebell is now endangered!

The characteristics are:

1. No fragrance

2. Strong unbending flower stem

3 Broader leaves

4. Broader "bells" for flowers

5. Flower lobes flick out rather than curl

6. Colours range in shades from deep blue to white.


Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia)

Confusingly this flower is known in Scotland as the Scottish bluebell and the English bluebell is known as the Wild Hyacinth!

1. Is from a different family to the bluebells above, it comes from the bellflower family.

2. Flowers later, from July to November

3. Has pale blue flowers on thinner stems than bluebells

4. The flower shape is similar to that of the Spanish bluebell.

5. Is found growing on grassland.

Important! Take Part in a Bluebell Survey!

Save our Bluebells!

Are bluebells flowering earlier each year?

Help scientists gather evidence of climate change by recording your findings of English and Spanish Bluebells.

Check out the Natural History Museum Bluebell Survey and help!

How to Grow Bluebells

It is illegal to uproot bulbs or collect seeds from English bluebells without a license, but you can buy seeds from reputable sellers. As this is a woodland plant, they do well in partial (but not deep) shade, preferably under broad leaf trees. They like to be kept moist, but not to be planted in boggy ground.

Place your bluebell seeds on a damp paper towel in a plastic food bag inside your fridge, keep them there for about 5 to 6 weeks then take out and sow. You could grow them in pots initially to give them a little extra protection from the elements and then plant them into the ground after the leaves have died back in the first year. If you grow bluebells from seed you won't get flowers until the second year, but after this they spread rapidly. Once they have flowered and the leaves have died back separate and divide the bulbs.

Where the bluebells and the wind are,

Fairies in a ring I spied,

And I heard a little linnet

Singing near beside.

Where the primrose and the dew are,

Soon were sped the fairies all:

Only now the green turf freshens,

And the linnets call.

— Walter de la Mare

Bluebell Woods to Visit - A list of great days out to see bluebells

Taking the family to visit bluebell woods is a lovely way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Bluebells in Myths and Folklore

In the past the wood was seen as a mysterious and dangerous place, think of the fairy tales - bad things happen in woods! As the Bluebell grows in the woods and looks so other-worldly, it has some dark myths surrounding it.

Bluebells used to be known as "witches thimbles" and it was said the bells of the flowers would peal out at midnight calling to the fairies. Woe betide any poor unfortunate traveller who heard those bells - he would be dead in the morning.

Another myth is that If you wade through a carpet of bluebells, you will disturb spells fairies have hung on the bluebell flowers. Terrible things will happen if you disturb the fairy folk....

Bluebells have had many scientific names, one of which is its Latin name of "Endymion non-scriptus". In Greek mythology Endymion was a handsome young man who Selene, the goddess of the moon, fell in love with.

In fact she loved him so much she didn't want him to get old and asked Zeus to make him youthful forever. She then took it a step further, Selene loved Endymion the best when he was sleeping - so she asked Zeus to make young and sleep forever, so she could watch him. Zeus granted the wish and Endymion sleeps forever in a cave.

When there is no moon in the sky, that's when Selene is visiting him. So why is this story anything to do with bluebells?! Apparently bluebells can induce a dreamless sleep - but they are poisonous so please don't eat them!

Bluebells are also linked to the story of Hyakinthos, another beautiful young man who was loved by the god Apollo.

Hyakinthos was playing discus one day with Apollo and the discus struck him on the side of his face, killing him. In his grief Apollo wrote in Hyakinthos' blood "AI, AI!" which means "Alas, Alas!"

Out this blood the hyacinth flower grew. The bluebell is related to this through its preferred official name Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

For More Information About Bluebells......

A list of great websites for further reading and information on how to protect the English Bluebell.

© 2010 LadyFlashman

Are you a fan of the Bluebell?! I want to hear your views on our English Bluebell!

I dont want to tell on September 26, 2016:


anonymous on March 03, 2013:

I love Bluebells and I'm quite lucky to live near Wayland Wood in Norfolk which has a lovely show of Bluebells in the spring.

sybil watson on March 01, 2013:

Bluebells are so gorgeous! We don't have many wildflowers where I live and I'm very envious of your carpets of bluebells. Very interesting and beautiful lens.

anonymous on February 23, 2013:

Anyone have a reference for the best method to remove Spanish Bluebells?

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on February 20, 2013:

This is a wonderful lens...reminds me of the joy of discovering a bluebell wood in my native Somerset when I was a child...

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on February 18, 2013:

I live near the bluebell woods in the Chiltern Hills. My greatest pleasure is to visit them when the bluebells are out, but you can only smell their wonderful fragrance on a dry day, and the last few years it has been too damp to get the true beauty of their fragrance. It would be so sad if squill took over. I think garden centres should be banned from selling them, personally!

anonymous on January 24, 2013:

I absolutely adore the English Bluebell! I love everything British, especially gardens, as my ancestors were from England (Yorkshire.) It makes me sad to know that they are endangered. The English bluebell is so beautiful, how could anyone not love it. As Ann Bronte writes, "there's a silent eloquence in every wild Bluebell. . ."

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on January 15, 2013:

The Bluebell woods in the picture looks so lovely. I'd love to see it in person. Interesting read all about the Bluebell, especially the myths surrounding it.

Jogalog on January 15, 2013:

i love walking in bluebell woods.

anonymous on January 15, 2013:

I have never heard of the Bluebell. It is so beautiful.

daisychainsaw lm on January 15, 2013:

What a gorgeous lens! I love bluebells, and this lovely lens reminds me Spring isn`t far away!

Sue-DN on January 15, 2013:

We made a special trip to see bluebells last year but were just a little too early. I've picked out a wood from your map and we'll make sure we get it right this year! Lovely flowers, lovely lens.

getmoreinfo on January 14, 2013:

These English Bluebells are really nice.

C A Chancellor from US/TN on January 14, 2013:

I love your photos -- so pretty!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 14, 2013:

These pictures lift me forward to spring.

myspace9 on January 14, 2013:

Pictures are really beautiful and the lens is Wow! nice and well designed work is here in this lens.

JuliaHidy on January 14, 2013:

We have a flower here in Southern Ontario, Canada that looks very similar to the English Bluebell. It is the same color, spreads the same way but it is different. I always thought it was a bluebell, until I read your page. Thanks for giving me this insight and a beautiful e-tour through the English countryside.

RockingChairWisdom on January 10, 2013:

One of Texas' claim to fame is the bluebell. Great informative lens..

GardenIdeasHub LM on November 23, 2012:

I really enjoyed your article about English Bluebell and very informative. Thanks!

GardenIdeasHub LM on November 23, 2012:

I really enjoyed your article about English Bluebell and very informative. Thanks!

Rose Jones on August 16, 2012:

Oh, my goodness what a gorgeous wonderful thorough lens! So beautiful! What a well deserved purple star. I am awe struck with the beauty of these flowers. They remind me of the beauty of the sugar maples in Vermont. Stumble-ed, pinned and blessed.

Rosaquid on August 09, 2012:

The native English bluebells are charming. I didn't know they were endangered. Thanks for a lovely and informative lens!

tfsherman lm on July 04, 2012:

What a gorgeous site you've created! Thank you! There's something about those blue flowers against the green...I once wrote a romance novel that featured a love scene that took place in a bluebell woods.

melissiaoliver on July 04, 2012:

Beautiful lens - simply stunning. I love taking walks through the woods in spring when the bluebells are out - I didn't know about Spanish varieties that have been introduced into Britain though.

dave-sutton on June 21, 2012:

I love to see these flowers appearing. When I take my daily walk and see them I know that winter is on the way out and Summer will soon be upon us.

Sher Ritchie on May 30, 2012:

I grew up reading stories like Enid Blyton's - about friendly fairies wearing bluebell bonnets, or clever toad-tailors using bluebells to make doll's dresses. I'm surprised there were/are negative folk tales about bluebells, they're so beautiful!

caffimages on April 30, 2012:

Very good lens. I'm in the process of removing thoushands of Spanish bluebells from my new overgrown garden. I intend to replant in a few year with our native bells.

waldenthreenet on March 12, 2012:

Appreciating your topic. We have bluebells here in USA. May be originially came with settlers from UK. Congrads on your Squidoo level 59. Am going for my next level. Conversations helps generate new ideas. Thanks.

aiclogcabins on March 12, 2012:

Very Interesting lens, I never realised there were 2 types and a hybrid

poppy mercer from London on March 12, 2012:

It's nearly bluebell time...and your lens is a worthy herald of such a beautiful flower.

julieannbrady on March 12, 2012:

English Bluebells make me smile ... such a delightful flower.

emmajowebster on March 04, 2012:

I just LOVE bluebells.......

waldenthreenet on March 02, 2012:

Yea, Enlglish Blue Bells for my Healing Garden--Go together. Conversations helps. Congrads on your Squidoo trophy. Am going fo rmy next. Thanks.

Barb McCoy on March 02, 2012:

What a lovely lens to visit this morning! I would love to take a walk in the woods with bluebells. :)

Thank you for your beautiful lens.

Annamadagan on March 01, 2012:

I love these flowers. So amazing and beautiful. Great for photography! Nice lens.

Sage62 on March 01, 2012:

I love walking the dogs when the bluebells come out! The smell is fantastic! Thanks for sharing this great lens!

purpleclouds on March 01, 2012:

beautiful flowers!

dixiebliss on February 29, 2012:

I love these flowers! So beautiful.

Lindrus on February 29, 2012:

Yes I am. And I love your beautiful photos of them here!

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on February 29, 2012:

Very pretty and very informative. It would be sad if they disappeared

oxfordian on February 29, 2012:

Very beautiful and even though I love wildflowers, there was so much here I didn't know! Thank you so much.

DuncanBoud on February 29, 2012:

Interesting to know how to differentiate the English, Spanish and hybrid bluebells - thank you!

KarenCookieJar on February 29, 2012:

Nice pictures and information!

Lou165 from Australia on February 28, 2012:

I love bluebells, I grew up in England and I have fond memories of what we called Bluebell Glen (I don't know what it's real name was!), it was quite upsetting when I visited 'home' 15 years ago to find that the area was now full of houses :(

My hubby has pointed out bluebell bulbs in the shops 'down under' a few times, but they're the hybrid ones and the blue is wrong to me, plus they don't have the same gorgeous scent as the English bluebell.

Sorry for rambling, but this lens has brought on a touch of nostalgia for me - thank you.

Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 27, 2012:

I enjoyed the myths and poetry about these benign-looking lovely flowers.

Clairissa from OREFIELD, PA on February 27, 2012:

They are so beautiful. I had planted Virginia Bluebells at my old house. They naturalized and spread beautifully. Gorgeous lens!!!

Anahid LM on February 27, 2012:

Hi I have blue bells in my garden at the Pacific northwest. I love them. Beautiful video thank you and i like the poems. Anna

MGuberti on February 27, 2012:

I am a big fan of the Bluebell!

Andrew 137 on February 27, 2012:

Bluebells are some of my favoruite things to go out and take pictures of, when they are out. Great floors of bluebells look immense, love the pictures in the lens. :)

sweetstickyrainbo on February 23, 2012:

some of the forest pictures are partcularly striking

Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on February 22, 2012:

I just love Blue Bells and I once ordered the bulbs to plant in my wild garden, but when I got them I had no time to plant them and I put them aside and forgot about them completely. Found them months later and they were no good anymore. So I have to order new ones this year. Great lens.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on February 21, 2012:

Bluebells are so pretty. Thanks for showing the different kinds. I didn't know the difference.

GaelicForge on February 21, 2012:

Nature sure can amaze---beautiful pictures!

madoc on February 21, 2012:

I really miss the snowbells and then the bluebells as harbingers of spring.

greenlungsofpoland on February 21, 2012:

Always been a big fan of bluebells my cottage in wales was surrounded by Bluebells and the scent was heavenly.

mreco99 on February 21, 2012:

Love the bluebells, and loving in the south of the UK i get to see quite alot of them.

anonymous on February 21, 2012:

Great lens. I love bluebell season. Some of the gardens have whole woods dedicated to bluebells and I used to have them in my garden growing wild. They are so pretty and with the speckled light on them in large groups they look amazing.

etravelvn on February 20, 2012:

Wow! Beautiful. I haven't seen this type of flower before.

reasonablerobby on February 20, 2012:

Fabulous lens and fabulous plant. We saw swathes of them in the canal side woods last April on our narrow boat holiday on the LLangollen canal. I also helped plant 2000 of them in the nature reserve that belongs to our village in Nottingham. Must remember to see when they bloom to tell the scientists.

Rosaquid on February 19, 2012:

Thank you for the charming article!

GypsyPirate LM on August 31, 2011:

I would love to see a bluebell wood! Thanks for sharing this!

caffimages on April 22, 2011:

What a great lens! A Great idea to show people the difference between our English and the Spanish bluebells. you photos are lovely, too.

anonymous on April 19, 2011:

Delightfully and beautifully done. I've always loved bluebells and it was fun learning so much about them. I sure do hope your lovely English bluebells can be saved for future generations to enjoy.

sorana lm on April 15, 2011:

Another excellent lens. Bluebells are not just beautiful but their strong smell is so pleasant.

anonymous on April 06, 2011:

Just beautiful.

Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on April 01, 2011:

Stunning lens. I've always loved bluebells.

anonymous on March 27, 2011:

childhood memories of picking them to take home to mum when it was ok to do so,from a wooded area over a brook just beyond the church grounds where we went to sunday school.This year ,the bulbs will be favours for the ladies at my daughters wedding, beautifully presented with a poem and growing instructions.

anonymous on March 03, 2011:

Can't wait to see them this year! The Woodland Trust have a new website where you can add bluebell photos and comments - You can even search for bluebell woods and tell them where you saw them by adding a little bluebell icon to the wood! Planning to add some pics later :o)

Rob Hemphill from Ireland on February 20, 2011:

I'm lucky enough to be able to enjoy the beautiful bluebell carpets in woods nearby each spring. I love to take close up photos of them. Super lens!

poutine on February 04, 2011:

I have never walked in bluebell woods, but certainly would love to.

CozyKitty on January 13, 2011:

This is such a wonderful lens .... thank you! Now I'm really looking forward to Spring.


WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on January 10, 2011:

I can imagine it is quite magical to walk through a field or ground cover of bluebells. They are quite a cheery little flower. I could never think of them has witches thimbles, lol. Bluebells remind me of the grape hyacinths we have in the Spring. :)

oztoo lm on June 24, 2010:

Oh talk about nostalgia. I always loved the bluebells in the woodland glades when I was a child. Wonderful and informative lens. I didn't know that English Bluebells were a threatened species.

Kerri Bee from Upstate, NY on June 24, 2010:

The English Blue Bells are beautiful!

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on June 15, 2010:

This is beautiful! I would love to see a wood of bluebells - I've seen them only in films and in photos such as the ones you display here. Blessed by an angel today ( /one-hundred-lens-blessings)

daoine lm on June 03, 2010:

Ah, nostalgia. Now I want to make a trip back to England even more because I haven't seen beautiful bluebell forests like that. Stunning.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on June 01, 2010:

Have you read Ever After by Elswyth Thane? In the book, Bracken falls in love with Dinah in the midst of a dell full of bluebonnets. Sigh, so romantic.

Kapalbility on May 27, 2010:

Not yet, but bringing a girl to a place like that will score lotsa goodie points! A really good looking lens.

jennysue19 on May 20, 2010:

Only a few days ago I was driving around the lanes between Chichester and Funtington, West Sussex where there is a little wood, currently carpeted in blue. From the colour, they are definitely our native bluebell, I'm sure not even the hybrid. Lovely lens.

ohcaroline on May 19, 2010:

This is a delightful and informative lens. I didn't know that there were English Bluebells. I was only familiar with the Texas Bluebells from USA. Well done and beautiful presentation.

Mickie Gee on May 16, 2010:

When I was in 2nd grade her in the south USA, I played a bluebell in a play. I have had an affection for this flower ever since.

This a a beautiful and informative article. I just might try to buy seeds and grow bluebells. Thank you.

mich1908 on May 16, 2010:

Such a lovely flower. Don't have blue colour flowers from where I came from. Used to read fairy tales which featured bluebells in the woods. Beautiful lense!

Jeanette from Australia on May 13, 2010:

What a beautiful lens. I really enjoyed my stroll here. 5*

Emily Tack from USA on May 06, 2010:

What a beautiful lens! I don't know that I can add anything to the other's comments. Wonderful!

ulla_hennig on May 06, 2010:

Beautiful lens with great photos and moving poems!

kimmanleyort on May 03, 2010:

Beautiful lens about bluebells. These are the quintessential wildflower the way they spread. 5*

Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on May 03, 2010:

Oh my! A lovely lens about my very favourite wildflower. Only snowdrops come close for me.... 5*

Geeve on May 03, 2010:

Another 5* list to add to your portfolio. Well done.

Indigo Janson from UK on May 03, 2010:

I adore bluebells -- thank you for this delightful page all about them!

KarenTBTEN on May 02, 2010:

The opening image is indeed other-wordly. Very well done. I did not know this flower was endangered.

aishu19 on May 02, 2010:

wow! beautiful flowers and a lens that really showed it to us all...

Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on May 02, 2010:

I was thinking about making a lens about bluebells, but yours is so lovely I don't think I will now! We have both English bluebells and hybrids all over our garden and local woods just now.

Related Articles