Beautiful bluebells at Blickling
The English bluebell is an icon of Britain’s woodlands in spring, so it’s no wonder that this wild beauty has become a yearly highlight at Blickling Estate…
Rolling out the blue carpet
At Blickling Estate, we carefully manage our woodland through coppicing and clearance of brambles during the winter months to make sure as much light as possible reaches the understory. This makes the crescendo of blue even more spectacular towards the end of April through to May.
Because bluebells spread very slowly they're considered to be an indicator of ancient woodland sites. Even if the trees aren't very old, or if there are no trees to be seen at all, the fact there are bluebells around can indicate that there has been a wood for some time in the past.
Blickling's Great Wood has existed for many centuries and it's possible that the woodland site has exisited since the first 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 mostly because wild deer graze on nectar-rich plants, so keeping this complex ecosystem in balance is an important part of the estate's daily conservation work.
A threatened species
The English bluebell is threatened on a global scale, due to habitat destruction and competition from the Spanish bluebell. However, despite being under threat, the bluebell is a member of the lily family and has a clever way of surviving under the dense shade of woodland.
Their green leaves emerge early in the year, well before the leaves on the surrounding trees begin to cast shade. This allows the bluebell to do most of its growing with plenty of light and effectively replenish the nutrients stored in its bulb. Beautiful blue flowers emerge at end of their cycle, before the leaves die away again until the following year.
Spot the difference
A true English bluebell has violet-blue bells on one side of the stem only and is sweet scented, unlike its Spanish counterpart which is not scented and takes a more upright form. Understanding the difference between them has allowed us to help conserve our rarer native English bluebell.