Woodland Plant of the Season - Bluebell
After a late start spring seems to be getting back in schedule and many woodland plants are now in bloom such as wood anemone (wind flowers), primroses, ramsons (wild garlic), common dog violet, and celandines giving dots of white, yellow and blue on the forest floor.
The first bluebells were flowering by 1st April at Auchincruive where I work. They were on sloping ground in the south west corner of a wood, where sunshine and warmth is maximised. Around that date the first trees were unfurling leaves – horse chestnuts.
Woodlands have a special vernal flora which needs to flower and set seed before trees come into leaf and cut out much light from the forest floor. Now in mid-May, most trees and shrubs have opening leaves and the vernal flora is peaking. Moschatel (town hall clock), opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and wood sorrel are also out and the leaves of many types of plants. The forest floor is now green with splashes of colour.
The flower standing out most is the bluebell or wild hyacinth; there are patches or swathes of blue in many woodlands. The south west of Scotland holds some of the best bluebell woods in Europe. When in full bloom they are beautiful.
Unfortunately the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is spreading from gardens and hybridising with our native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). The native bluebell has a drooping one-side spike and the flowers have creamy-white anthers at the tips; the Spanish one is sturdier and erect (more like a hyacinth) with purple anthers.
Peak Ecology Ltd