Brocklands was the first green burial site to choose the much-loved English bluebell (hyacinthoides non-scripta) as its emblem: it produces vibrant purple-blue displays across woodland floors during late spring, and is one of the iconic symbols of England. Although it is a plant which tolerates partial shade, it nonetheless requires the light afforded by deciduous trees in the spring to burst forth into flower. It is one of the wildflowers regarded by experts as an indicator of Ancient Woodland habitat and when found out in the open it may indicate where an ancient woodland used to be. The photo above is from one of the estate's other woods showing how bluebells will spread over time.

However, these beautiful bluebell woods across the country are under threat from a close relative: the Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides Hispanica). This plant was brought to England by the Victorians who didn't realise how deadly it could be. Planted in gardens, the seeds gradually escaped, and the insects carried the pollen from flower to flower, sometimes landing on a native bluebell. The effect has been to gradually turn the native plant into a Spanish one by cross-pollination. What does this mean in real terms? If you look at the diagrams below, this can be illustrated clearly. What do we love about the English bluebell? We love the rich purple-blue hue of its delicate nodding bell-shaped flowers, and its graceful curved habit, and its scent - and yes, all of these are wiped out by the Spanish invader and will not be present in our woodlands once the Spaniard has got a foothold. To summarise the differences:

English Bluebell Spanish Bluebell
  • rich blue/purple flowers forming thin narrow trumpets with curled petal-edges
  • pale blue (or pink or white) flowers forming broad open-bell flowers
  • pure white stamens with a scent
  • pale blue stamens with no scent
  • narrow strap leaves
  • much broader, stiffer strap leaves
  • all trumpets dangling from one side of the stem in a curve
  • flowers sticking out from all sides around the stem, which can be vertical

Not to put too fine a point on it, the Spanish bluebell is a bit of a floral thug, less colourful, stouter and more coarse, but worst of all a usurper of the woodland throne. They can be a little tricky to identify, however, as many are still in the hybrid stage (not properly native or Spanish) so may not strictly conform to the lists above, but appear to have elements of both. However, if any of the 'Spanish' elements are present, then it's not native! The organisation Plantlife has been monitoring the spread of hybrids and Spanish plants for some years now, and plotting the spread of the Spanish bluebell. (A Plantlife report entitled "Bluebells for Britain" can be downloaded here.) What's worse, we have actually seen bluebells for sale in garden centres which were obviously Spanish but were labelled as just "Bluebells" or even "English Bluebells" - so beware!

At Brocklands, every year when the bluebells come in to flower, we have to scan the site for suspicious-looking flowers, as unfortunately, despite our best efforts at advertising the fact, and despite offering native bluebells for sale, some families are still bringing their own plants along.     Please don't!

Back to top

The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by Brocklands Woodland Burial and while we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website. Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under our control. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them. Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, we take no responsibility for, and will not be liable for, the website being temporarily unavailable due to technical issues beyond our control.