Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) — ID Guide

Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) – Coinnle corra Asparagaceae

One of our best known and most loved spring flowers is bluebell. This beautiful wildflower really does carpet woodland floors throughout April and May.

Bluebells carpeting an area of woodland in Co. Waterford – Oisín Diffy
Bluebells carpeting an area of woodland in Co. Waterford – Oisín Diffy

Bluebells can be found in woodlands and sometimes even dotted along road vergers and are best seen in April and May, where they create beautiful violet/blue carpets on the woodland floor.

Surely one of the most iconic signs of Spring is the blue-violet-purple hued woodland floor when bluebells are in full flower – Oisín Duffy
Surely one of the most iconic signs of Spring is the blue/violet/purple hued woodland floor when bluebells are in full flower – Oisín Duffy

The plant is relatively easy to identify, its striking violet/blue colour, coupled with its drooping, dainty bell-shaped one sided flower arrangement mean that there are few other native species which you could confuse it with. The flowers also smell very sweet and when walking through a woodland crowded with bluebells you should have no problem smelling their beautiful scent.

One sided, drooping bell shaped flowers of bluebells are extremely distinctive – Oisín Duffy
One sided, drooping bell shaped flowers of bluebells are extremely distinctive – Oisín Duffy

The leaves are long, slender and dark glossy green forming tufts around the flowering stem.

The hoverfly Rhingia campestris getting nectar from bluebells, a relatively popular species with pollinators at this time of year – Oisín Duffy
The hoverfly Rhingia campestris getting nectar from bluebells, a relatively popular species with pollinators at this time of year – Oisín Duffy
Small Tortoiseshell also using bluebells, a beautiful contrast in colours – Oisín Duffy
Small Tortoiseshell also using bluebells, a beautiful contrast in colours – Oisín Duffy
Holly Bluebells, Holly Blue Butterfly on bluebells a beautiful Spring time scene – Oisín Duffy
Holly Bluebells, Holly Blue Butterfly on bluebells a beautiful Spring time scene – Oisín Duffy

Confusion can sometimes arise as Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are frequently planted throughout Ireland and while they look quite different from our native bluebells, hybridisation does occur. Hybrids can have the characteristics of both parent species and Spanish Bluebells are generally much lighter in colour (pale blue) and can also be pink/white. They are generally not scented and the anthers are usually blue. The most noticeable difference is that instead of a one-sided flower arrangement, the flowers of Spanish Bluebell are positioned all around the stem in a spiral formation.

Bluebells in a woodland during Spring – Oisín Duffy
Bluebells in a woodland during Spring – Oisín Duffy

This is currently in flower, so why not get out there and have a look for this beautiful plant and if you happen to find it, why not put the record into the Spring Flower Project a joint project between the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI).

Remember if you have any ideas for future posts or if you want help with identification you can ask me on Twitter @OshDuffy.

Oisín Duffy
About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

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