A Blue Day

Fizz took one look at the morning sky and confidently predicted a lovely day. She was right.

Blue DawnSo she had a lot of fun and we spent a long time in the fields practising our recall. She hasn’t quite got it yet. She tends to chase after the ball and then when she has got it she will sit down and wait for me to catch up.

What is the point in running back to him when he is coming this way anyway?

FizzAbsolutely beautiful weather, warm and still.

But that was at lunch time, by three o’clock the sun had gone down and it was cold and icy. It is still December.

DecemberSo I sat down to write about Bluebells, before we get onto flowers here is a little something for the animal lovers, this is a Bluebell Conch.

Bluebell ConchIt is a little Tortrix moth calledΒ Hysterophora maculosana.

I know that it doesn’t look much but it is rare. When I took these pictures in 2011 there had only been five previous county sightings in this century.

What was even rarer was to photograph it on the food plant, there was only one other photograph of a Bluebell Conch on a Bluebell in circulation at that time.

Bluebell ConchWell you know that I believe in sharing my pictures. I uploaded these to Wikimedia under a CC0 license, which basically means that they are free for anyone to download and use as they see fit.

Well, it is important, they are rare and people should see these things.

It is not like I created the moth! I just pointed my stick at it πŸ™‚

Bluebell Conch

Bluebell ConchI do realise that sometimes I must annoy proper photographers but this was for the benefit of Humanity and to help people to love little Β animals and flowers and my images adorn Wikipedia pages around the world, helping people to see the beauty in a little animal.

Mga sumpay ha gawas

Whatever that means πŸ™‚

Here is my story of the blues… (It goes on a bit)

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, The Bluebell

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

As spring flowers go the Bluebell is a bit of a late starter. They begin to appear around mid April and by that time everything is in flower.

Primroses, Lesser Celandine and the Wood Anemones have all but gone. The Snowdrop and Crocus are a distant memory and many of the summer flowers are in full bloom.

My first Bluebell of 2014, this picture was taken on the 13th. of April.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Still Bluebells herald in the new year for me.

They are one of the first plants that I see as their tiny shoots break through the leaf litter.

Bluebells in January.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)We are still a long way from the warm scented woodlands of April and May but it has begun and it always makes me feel good to see the shoots.

What happens next takes a little bit of time but there are lots of other flowers to look at, the Bluebells signal the start of it.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β There is an absolute magic in a Bluebell woodland in springtime.

Magic Squirrel

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The colour is subtle, it isn’t gaudy, it fits and the scent hangs heavy on a dewy morning.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta is deeply scented, Β it is lovely to walk in a Bluebell wood but our woodlands are under threat.

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The threat to our Native Bluebell:

About half of all of the worlds Hyacithoides non-scripta are here in the UK. It is essentially a British flower and so we have a responsibility to preserve it.

The problem is the Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica. The two species have been isolated for about 8000 years but in the last 200 years gardeners have been introducing the Spanish variant and seriously, we are in danger of losing our flowers.

Usually when we talk about the threat of an invasive species we are talking about them encroaching on habitat and crowding our own species out. The threat posed by the Spanish Bluebell is different, It can pollinate native Bluebells to produce a very different hybrid species which can go on to pollinate more flowers. Once hybrids get into the woods the process is irreversible.

The Native Bluebell will hybridise with the Spanish Bluebell and the result is a hybrid called Hyacinthoides massartiana. The Hybrid is fertile and more hardy than the Native Bluebell and it is less fussy about it’s habitat. The hybrid is now much more common than genuine Spanish Bluebells but it shares many of the characteristics and it is very hard to impossible to positively separate the species and sometimes requires DNA analysis.

This is either Spanish or possibly a hybrid.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)The Hybrid shares characteristics with both parents but the characteristics from the Spanish side include a strong stem, so that the flowers are held upright and do not droop to one side, an open bell shaped flower and blue to green pollen, (once the pollen is spent the anthers will appear white). The leaves are broader than the native Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell is unscented and Hybrids have a very weak scent.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)Β Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)Β  Β Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)Β  Β Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)Β Hybrids can also look a lot like native Bluebells.

Please Note: The majority of Hyacinthoides non-sripta bulbs that are offered for sale are actually hybrids. You need a license to trade in Bluebell bulbs and there are very few licensed growers.

The Guardian, Digging the Blues.

If you want to buy native Bluebell bulbs then be sure to buy them from a name that you can trust. The licensed grower mentioned in the Guardian article above doesn’t sell to the public.

Vera Bluebell

I would trust The Royal Horticultural SocietyΒ rather than my local market trader although he is a very nice man and I would certainly buy my Petunias from him and pretty much everything else.

There is no reason to ever plant shop bought bulbs in the wild.

How to identify Hyacinthoides non-scripta:

The easiest way to identify a native Bluebell is to look at the anthers of newly opened flowers. The pollen will be creamy white. It is important to look at new flowers, those at the top of the flower spike, as once the pollen is spent they all have white anthers.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β  Β Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Β If the pollen is white then it is native, if the pollen is any other colour then it definitely is not native.

Other features to look for, the flower is long and tubular rather than bell shaped like the Spanish variety. The petals are strongly curled back at the tips and the stem is quite weak causing the flower head to droop to one side (but notice that the flowers do not all emerge on the same side)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)As the flowers age the stem becomes more upright and it is common to see native Bluebells without the droop and less one directional.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)By the time the seed pods have developed the flower stem is completely upright.

27Another good way to tell the species apart is colour. Whilst the Spanish flowers introduced into our gardens come in a variety of colours from pink to deep blue the Native Bluebell is always blue.

Except when it is white.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)I have read a bit about how rare and unusual it is to find white Bluebells and I can only say that has not been my experience. I have regularly found them in woods all around Southern England and I can usually expect to find more than one in a given wood.

They are not that uncommon and they stand out, they are also quite beautiful.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Hyacinthoides non-scripta is considered to be an indicator species of ancient woodland although locally they seem to grow in every hedgerow and field.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)They can increase by bulb division, they produce small offset bulbs from the main one but they spread very slowly and it may take decades for them to advance a few yards.

They also grow from seed but again that is a slow process, it takes about five years for the seed to produce a flower.

30The seed heads appear in late May when the flowers are spent and will remain in the woods for months. At first green they dry out to a papery brown shell before discarding their seeds.


32Β 33Β  Β 34Β  Β 35 36


Kingdom: Plantae

Order:Β Asparagales

Family:Β Asparagaceae

Genus:Β Hyacinthoides

Species:Β Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Wildflowers in winter.

(Please notice that I included a Bluebell Tortrix Dog in my last picture)

Now I have got to take her for a walk and it is a stinky, cold, windy day today.

And now it is raining!!!

58 thoughts on “A Blue Day”

  1. Ever since I started looking at your blog I have seen more beauty and wonder in my own little corner than I ever would have imagined. And it’s all your fault. You have opened my eyes and taught me to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I very much appreciate your sentiment regarding copyright and sharing images. I love this line: “It is not like I created the moth! I just pointed my stick at it πŸ™‚ ”

    I have encountered similar discussion regarding images of minerals in my hobby. We are a funny breed.

    You are doing important work. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not much beats a Bluebell wood. The tort is excellent. I have Razowski’s Tortricidae of Europe on the shelf behind me. I must look it up. I hope you submit your records to your VC Recorder, Colin or put them on iNaturalist. I was not aware of the Bluebell hybridisation problem. You can’t trust the Spanish, can you? Will there be a class for Bluebell Tortrix Dog at Crufts next year, I wonder?


    1. Thanks Andrew πŸ™‚ The Bluebell hybridisation is a real problem that has been much more publicised over the last decade. Some people are saying that twenty years from now there will be no Bluebell woods, not as we know them today. That is probably scaremongering but it only takes one Spanish Bluebell to start the corruption process. Climate has a lot to do with it and I have heard that global warming could save our Bluebells. The two species have to flower at the same time to hybridise and a rise in temperature would see our Bluebells flowering earlier. Also hybrids are still rare in Scotland but that is a long way to go to see Bluebells.


  4. I have been worried about the bluebell hybrids for some years too. My fingers itch whenever I see gardens full of Spanish/hybrid bluebells – I want to rush in and pick all the flowers and get rid of them especially when I know that a real bluebell wood is near at hand.


    1. Thank you Clare πŸ™‚ In my little wood in East Sussex the local tree warden came to see me and warn me that he had caught a local lady planting Spanish Bluebells in the wood. In all innocence, she just loved the Bluebells and wanted to see more of them. It will be a huge loss if one day there are no English Bluebell woods 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh that I could walk in the fragrance of a Bluebell woods in the UK. You painted us a wondrous adventure. I come away, each time, calm and filled with peace. Ever a learning experience when I click on “A Tramp in the Woods.”


  6. This is when smellavision would be nice. I can only imagine the intoxicating fragrance of your woodland in full bloom. If noses could have orgasms I am sure this would be it. Bonus points for the tortrix moth and uploading for posterity and education. Hopefully with efforts like yours the plight of the hyacinthoides non-scripta β€˜Bluebell’ will be heard and heeded. Bluetiful post.


    1. Thank you Stephanie πŸ™‚ A Bluebell wood at dawn, with a slight coolness in the air, stillness. The sweet smell of the flowers and the sound of the songbirds, with the Woodpecker’s drum echoing through the wood and Deer in the distance. If only there was a machine that could catch it all and preserve it and share it. It is bluetiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How lucky and very special to catch that rare moth on a bluebell. Your post reminded me of the long walks I took in the ‘bluebell’ season in Rudgewick, Sussex in 1978.
    Thanks for sharing.


  8. Thanks for another informative post. The bluebell woods of England are legendary. I have a favorite lithograph by Stephen Whittle that goes by that title. Do you know of him?
    I didn’t know that this special flower is endangered – how disturbing. Paradise lost again.


    1. Thank you Eliza πŸ™‚ No I had never heard of Stephen Whittle until you mentioned him. Thank you. I couldn’t track down the lithograph that you mention but I have seen a lot of his other work now, it is very good πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I fell in love with his work in the mid-80s and purchased half a dozen. I expect they have appreciated nicely, judging by today’s prices. They are quintessential English countryside.


  9. I looked this up in Razowski. It is on plate V of vol 1 but looks absolutely nothing like this. It is captioned as no. 77. Turning to the text no. 77 is reallocated to the genus Obraztsoviana (!) and the description is closer. I think the plate may be wrong. I went further back to Bradley and his plate 22, 5/6 is a much better match. He also has it in Hysterophora. The NHM link is here: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/projects/butmoth/search/GenusDetails.dsml?NUMBER=19960.0

    Bradley describes it as Locally common and v. often abundant in suitable woodland localities throughout the southern and eastern counties of England……….becoming less common northwards. Seems like a good record, Colin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Andrew, good research πŸ™‚ Locally common? There was another sighting just about the same time in woods just a few miles from mine,

      Brede High Woods

      It seems that in 2011 you couldn’t tip toe through the Bluebells without tripping over the blasted things πŸ™‚


      1. An excellent link, Colin. I have followed it. There is a mention of a velvet ant. I photographed one on my coffee table (outdoors) once. I had no idea what it was until someone warned me they have a sting like a mule’s kick. I’ll try to find the photo.


    1. Thanks Gillian πŸ™‚ I love blogs about UK gardens. It is good to see what is going on in other parts of the country. Of course you can link to this post and the pictures that I post on these blogs are posted as free to download and reuse, if ever you should need pictures to illustrate a point, or whatever πŸ™‚

      The Bluebell part of this post is copied from my Easy Wildflowers blog and you can link to that if you prefer it without the waffle and the puppy dog.


      Easy Wildflowers is a project that I am working on and it is work in progress. It is intended to be an identification guide to some of our more common willdflowers. It won’t work until I get some content on it and so this winter I am trying to fill it up a bit, while it is cold and dark outside. I am just copying posts that I write for that blog over to here to brighten up our winter πŸ™‚


  10. I love flowers that hang down. They’re so evocative, of what I don’t know. A mood, perhaps.
    I am sorry to hear about the hybridization. These things happen all over the world, and I don’t see how it can all be stopped. Not sure it must be stopped, in a way. But we can, at least, both document well and minimize the damage. My mimosa tree that I love in my back yard is considered an invasive species farther south. I don’t think people are allowed to even plant them, because they sprout up and take over in the hot and humid environment. This is one of the reasons I’m glad I live farther north, where I can indulge my southern tastes without damaging the local environs. I know the hummingbirds love that tree at least as much as I do.


    1. Thanks Lora πŸ™‚ As I said though, the difference between this invasive species and most others is that they cross pollinate and change the native and that means a much loved species is lost. It is a great pity that our native Bluebells, so loved by the Victorians, didn’t inherit Victorian moral standards πŸ™‚ They are a bit loose.


    1. Thanks Michelle πŸ™‚ The problem that I have with many non-native species is that they don’t integrate and they don’t support other wildlife. The Sweet Chestnut being a good example, many people regard it as an honorary native simply because there are so many of them here but almost no insects can use it and it doesn’t support life, without insects it fails the birds and so on and evolution takes a long time, it is never going to be native. There are many other non-natives that do integrate and have come to play an important role, providing early nectar sources for example and I get on okay with them πŸ™‚


  11. The Bluebells are beautiful and the day was nice and bright even though I know it must’ve been cold later in the evening. I sure enjoyed the post and the pictures were wonderful. Thank you very much and we’ll see you again.


  12. Do the hybrid bluebells meld in any way with insects in UK? Just wondering. As they seem to be a hybrid within the realm of what could happen naturally. Isn’t that how the various flowers have evolved?
    I suppose that is just a rationale, as it could be said about many non-native plants.


    1. Thank you Susan πŸ™‚ I don’t know that it is evolution for the Bluebell H. non-scripta rather the end of evolution for that species. A new species is evolving and so that is evolution and although the English and Spanish Blue bells have been isolated for ten thousand years it was probably inevitable that one day they would meet. We have just hastened the process. Many people here, including conservationists just accept that the change is inevitable. There will still be flowers in the wood and nobody will miss what they never knew. I am just glad that I knew Bluebell woods.


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