Harsh winter takes its toll on bluebells

If you’re planning a bluebell walk, you may have to wait. This year’s unusually harsh winter and spring will cause Britain’s bluebells to bloom about three weeks late, according to the National Trust.

The sustained cold weather and snow has delayed bluebells’ arrival, which normally occurs in late April to early May, because the flowers need light and warmth to thrive.

Emmetts_Garden Emmetts Garden – Jerry Harpur/NTPL

In recent years, mild winters have meant that bluebells often come into flower earlier; west Cornwall has seen bluebells as early as April 1.

This year, the Trust estimates that bluebells won’t appear until late May-the latest peak in flowering since 1996.

The Trust also believes that the arrival of bluebell displays will be patchy and dependent on where the woods are located, such as high up or on exposed ground.

Kingston_Lacy Kingston Lacy – Richard Pink/NTPL

Ian Wright, the Trust’s gardens advisor for Devon and Cornwall, said: ‘We shouldn’t take for granted what naturally occurs in the country. This is one of the things we can’t replicate, that fantastic bluebell wood.

‘We’re good gardeners, but can we compete with Mother Nature? No.’

LanhydrockLanhydrock – Rupert Truman/NTPL

Bluebells face several threats to their survival. Climate change has prompted trees to come into leaf earlier, reducing the time that the flowers have to bloom before the tree cover shuts out their light.

In addition, invasive species Spanish bluebell has escaped from gardens and is interbreeding with our native variety. Spanish bluebells are scentless and don’t have the same deep blue colour.

Mr Wright urges people to report where and when they see bluebells flowering, as their observations could prove valuable to the Trust’s research.

To find the best place to see bluebells on Trust land, visit our bluebell guide or follow the Trust’s bluebell watch page, which will be live soon.

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