The Common bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a classic plant of ancient and semi-ancient woodlands. It is a bulbous perennial with a drooping habit, one- sided inflorescence and six strongly recurved tepals. Vivid violet/blue in colour sweetly scented, it has three to six linear shaped leaves.

Common Bluebell

Flowering under the still -to -leaf trees it can form a massed carpet of deep blue. Although Jesmond Dene is not a famous Bluebell Wood it still provides a good show. Since Bluebells take five to seven years to flower it is a good indicator of ancient woodlands.

Jesmond Dene

Identifying a bluebell to species is not straightforward. The introduction of the Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) has led to interbreeding to form hybrid bluebells (H x massartiana), common in gardens. The Bluebell on the left has features characteristic of the Common Bluebell including parallel sided flowers and deeply recurved tepals. The one on the right has an upright habit, erect flower spike, not one- sided with bells open shaped around the stem.

A close up of the flowers shows another difference. The outer stamens on the Hybrid on the right are unfused with the sepals for most of their length but in the Common bluebell (on the left) the stamens are mostly fused.

It is difficult to distinguish between hybrid and Spanish bluebells. The picture below has many characteristics of the Spanish Bluebell including pale flowers and much broader leaves.

Spanish bluebell

The flowers in the picture below display the intermediate features of the Hybrid type.

Hybrid bluebell

The Scottish Bluebell is a completely different flower, the Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).


Harrap’s Wild Flowers – Simon Harrap- 2013


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