The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Bluebells in conservation area at Kew Gardens, London - May 2003

Bluebells in conservation area at Kew Gardens, London - May 2003

The common bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta (syn. Endymion non-scriptum, Scilla non-scripta) is a spring-flowering bulbous perennial plant.

The non-scripta or non-scriptum part of the botanical names means "unlettered" or "unmarked" and was intended to distinguish this plant from the classical hyacinth of Greek mythology. This mythical flower (which may have been a wild species of Hyacinthus, Iris or other flower) sprang up from the blood of the dying prince Hyacinthus. His admirer, the god Apollo, shed tears that marked the new flower's petals with the letters "AIAI" ("alas") as a sign of his grief.
The English bluebell should not be confused with the Scottish bluebell or harebell, Campanula rotundifolia. Hyacinthoides means "like a hyacinth"; Endymion is another character from Greek myth; Scilla was the original Greek name for sea squill, Urginea maritima.
Other common names for common bluebell include: auld man's bell, bluebell, calverkeys, culverkeys, English bluebell, jacinth, ring-o'-bells, wilde hyacint, and wood bells.


The common bluebell flowers in April and May. The stems are 10-30 cm long and bend over at the top. The lavender-blue flowers are pendulous, tubular with the petals recurved only at the end. The individual flowers are borne on one side of the flowering stem only. The anthers are yellowish-white or cream and are attached inside the tube more than half-way along the tube. The flowers are pleasantly and usually strongly scented. The leaves, which are all basal, are narrowly linear lanceolate. Variations in colour occur, most usually pinkish or in a white variant, H. non-scripta 'Alba'. Pollination is by insects, including bees. The black seeds may have a long period of survivability and can emerge after several years' absence if suitable conditions recur. The seedlings can flower in two years from seed; as a result, bluebells can quickly spread in suitable conditions.


In Britain and probably elsewhere there has been extensive hybridisation with the introduced Hyacinthoides hispanica producing fertile seeds. This has produced hybrid swarms around sites of introductions and, since the hybrids are able to thrive in a wider range of environmental conditions, the hybrids are frequently out-competing the native Bluebells. Hybrids show a great range of characteristics and any one of the following features indicates some hybridisation:
Stems upright and not nodding
Flowers borne on more than one side of the flowing stem
The flower is more open and bell-shaped and does not have a long and more-or-less parallel sided tube
The anthers, at least when young, are blue or cyan and not white or cream
The leaves are broader
The scent is less strong and less sweet.


In spring, many north-western European woods are covered by dense carpets of this flower; these are commonly referred to as "bluebell woods". The presence of large numbers of bluebells is often used as an indicator species to identify ancient woodland, particularly in the East of England and Lincolnshire. It is estimated that 70% of all common bluebells are found in Great Britain.


Hyacinthoides non-scripta is endemic to Belgium, Great Britain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, and also occurs as a naturalized species in Germany, Italy, and Romania.

In the United Kingdom the common bluebell is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Landowners are prohibited from removing common bluebells on their land for sale and it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild common bluebells. This legislation was strengthened in 1998 under Schedule 8 of the Act making any trade in wild common bluebell bulbs or seeds an offence.

Comments on this photo


So tranquil

24 Jul, 2010

Comment on this photo

Pictures tagged with bluebells
37 of 103

  • Joel_clark_095
  • 157866716_0a810aa1d2_b

What else?

View photos by Hildadorissen

Members who like this photo

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Aug, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    8 Apr, 2010