If you’ve been on a woodland walk in the last couple of weeks you might have noticed the stunning purple carpet and slightly heady sweet scent of native bluebells – indicating both that you’re walking in ancient woodland and that spring is well and truly here!
Native or British bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are much more delicate than the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), a very deep purple blue with an elegant droop and finer leaf. Often interspersed with stitchwort, it is one of a dozen or so plants that indicate ancient woodlands – somewhere that soils have been left undisturbed for hundreds of years, part of our history and important places to look after.
Native bluebells are disappearing. They hybridise easily with non-native Spanish bluebells, which are popular with gardeners and can encroach ancient woodland where it is close to urban or suburban areas. Data collected through the Trust’s True Bluebells project – part of Nature Counts – in 2017 indicated that gardens are a primary source of non-native bluebells in woodlands, through spread, garden encroachment and the dumping of garden waste. The project found that non-native bluebells were often on the outskirts of woodlands but not in the centre. These records were usually found close to obvious patches of dumped garden waste, gardens, or evidence of fly tipping.
View our bluebell map to see where native and hybrid bluebells are located in Sheffield.
How you can help
The Trust is working hard to protect our native bluebells for the future – for example managing our woodlands so that they provide the dappled shade required and weeding out Spanish bluebells when we see them. We also campaign to save local bluebell woodlands from being lost to development.
And we can all do our bit to help native bluebells thrive. If you’re looking at planting bluebells in your garden, be sure to buy British bluebells and even replace non-natives with British, as well as compost carefully, as the spread of non-natives is largely due to the disposal garden waste. The Trust is encouraging people not to throw Spanish bluebells in the green waste bin as this could allow the plants to spread to other areas. Instead, tie them in a black plastic bag and leave them for a year to rot down.
Where to see bluebells in Sheffield
If you haven’t had a chance to see this year’s bluebells yet, be careful not to miss them – they are a fleeting visitor, at their brightest and best for just a few weeks, but the good news is that Sheffield has some of the best places to spot them in the country, including our own Moss Valley Woodlands nature reserve.
On the southern boundary of Sheffield, Moss Valley Woodlands is home to a beautiful string of ancient woodlands in a secluded valley, just a stone’s throw from Norton and Jordanthorpe. You can also spot bluebells at other reserves such as Greno Woods; the north end of Wyming Brook near the A57; and at Blacka Moor, in the woodland at the bottom of Lenny Hill.
Have a look at our bluebell ID guide to check which bluebells you find!
We’d love to see your bluebell pictures! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, where the photo was taken and permission for us to share them on social media.