Plants are essential to everyone's lives. Welcome to Plantlife.

How can I tell whether bluebells are native ones or Spanish ones?

The Spanish Bluebell, commonly grown in our gardens, is more vigorous than our native species and can crossbreed with the native to create a fertile hybrid.

Native bluebell © Christina Hart-Davies

Native bluebell © Christina Hart-Davies

This is a problem, as crossbreeding dilutes the unique characteristics of our native Bluebell.

In a recent study, conducted by Plantlife volunteers across the UK, one in six broadleaved woodlands surveyed were found to contain the hybrid or Spanish Bluebell.

Noticeable differences between the two are as follows:

Native bluebells...

Spanish bluebell © Christina Hart-Davies

Spanish bluebell © Christina Hart-Davies

  • have narrow leaves, usually about 1cm or 1.5cm (about half an inch) wide,
  • have deep blue (sometimes white, rarely pink), narrow, tube-like flowers, with the very tips curled right back.
  • have flowers mostly on one side of the stem only, and distinctly drooping, or nodding, at the top
  • have a distinct, sweetish scent
  • Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen are usually cream.

Spanish bluebells...

  • have broad leaves often 3cm (over an inch) wide
  • have paler blue (quite often pink and white ones too), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips.
  • have flowers all round the upright stem
  • have almost no scent.
  • Inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen usually blue (although this may vary a little).

Hybrids between these two are very common, with a whole range of intermediate characters. The hybrids are often abundant in gardens and in woods near to urban areas.