Why are bluebells special?

Bluebells have a special place in our history © Craig Somerville

Bluebells have a special place in our history

We've put together a few bluebell facts for you:

  • Nearly 50% of the world’s bluebells can be found in the UK.
  • There are some in western Germany but none in Scandinavia.
  • In folklore the bluebell is considered to be the flower of the house goblin.
  • Anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth.
  • The bluebell is a symbol of constancy and is probably the origin of the '….something blue…' that a bride should wear on her wedding day.
  • The bluebell is being studied for its medicinal qualities because it contains things called water-soluble alkaloids that could be useful in developing drugs to fight cancer.

A sign of ancient woodland sites

The bluebell is a member of the lily family and has a clever way of surviving under the dense shade of woodland. The green leaves emerge early in the year, well before the leaves of the trees open. This means that the bluebell does most of its growing with plenty of light and so replenishes the nutrients stored in its bulb.

The flowering bit is really the end of the cycle and the leaves die away until the following year. Because bluebells spread very slowly they're considered to be an indicator of ancient woodland sites. Even if the trees are not very old, the fact there are bluebells around can indicate that there has been a wood on a site for a very long time. Even if there are no trees there at all, bluebells tell us that there was woodland there some time in the past. 

Blickling Estate's Great Wood
The Great Wood has existed since before mediaeval times and it's possible that there has been woodland here since trees started to grow after the Ice Age. Although there is a large area of bluebells in the Great Wood there are areas without any bluebells. This is probably because deer were allowed to graze part of the woodland - constant grazing by deer will cause bluebells to eventually die out. 

In the 1930s thousands of bluebell bulbs were taken to be planted in Blickling's formal gardens. Once you've walked through the Great Wood why not visit the gardens to see more bluebells and a host of other interesting trees and plants?