ISSUE 12  |  Color Coded

The Endangered English Bluebell

March 22, 2012 6:30 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

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The English bluebell is vanishing from its native landscape at such an alarming rate that to save it, the UK's National Trust has resorted to desperate measures: a Twitter campaign.

If you see a Hyacinthoides non-scripta in the wild as this year's bloom season gets underway, the place to report the sighting is #bluebellwatch. Tweet the postcode—and a photo—so the location may be added to a National Trust map. Updated each year, the map's photos also teach observers to spot the subtle differences between native bluebells and invasive types.

Above: The English bluebell is strongly perfumed, prefers partial shade, and has flowers that droop and cluster distinctly on one side of the stem. Image via Accent Garden Designs.

Above: It is illegal to dig up bulbs for purposes of selling them. In the United Kingdom, Thompson & Morgan sells English Bluebells that have passed a DNA test, proving they weren't harvested from the wild; 50 bulbs for £17.99. In the United States, Hyacinthoides non-scripta is available from Brent and Becky's Bulbs; 50 bulbs for $33. Image via Flickr.

Above: From a distance, a bluebell grove in East Sussex resembles a murky, purplish mist. Photo via Henry Hemming on Flickr.

Above: Spanish bluebells, an invasive cousin that easily hybridizes with the unsuspecting English bluebell, grows upright, has flowers on all sides of the stem and comes in a range of colors. Although scorned for its aggressive tendencies in the wild, in your flower garden, Hyacinthoides hispanica is a sturdy and reliable spring companion; $15.95 for 25 bulbs at from White Flower Farm. Photo via Paulo Dykes (L) and Kate E.H. (R) on Flickr.