What can be more English than a bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) wood? If I was on a desert island and could have one picture to remind me of home then it would have to be of a carpet of bluebells spreading across the woodland floor under tall oak trees. I know I am not alone as visiting bluebell woods seems to be an obsession. In April the number of visits my website, the Nature of Dorset, gets increases dramatically as people search out details of where they can find them.
The bluebell is primarily a species of lowland England and they are quite common in Dorset. There are areas (notably Pamphill, Hooke Park Wood and Duncliffe Wood) where they are quite stunning when at their best. However, you can also find bluebells on heathland, on cliff tops and by road sides although in these habitats you rarely get the full effect of a bluebell wood. In Scotland the name bluebell is used for what we know down south as the harebell.
A member of the lily family, bluebells (like their cousins, ramsons) are often a sign of ancient woodland as they rarely set seed and spread by multiplying their underground bulbs. The Spanish bluebell is often grown in gardens and where this is near a colony of our native bluebells hybridisation occurs and there is concern the native species may be lost in some areas.
Sadly, the camera (well, mine anyway) seems to find it impossible to capture that certain something about bluebells! The colour is never quite right and obviously the scent is missing; if only I could paint!