The rare white bluebell

A detail of the rare white bluebell at Derrymore

Bluebells - blue and white - are in full bloom in woods across the country, creating spectacular swathes of colour.

Bluebells usually bloom in late April or early May and can carpet the floor of a wood, filling it with a beautiful, delicate scent and providing much needed nectar for bees, butterflies and other insects. 

Rosemary Mulholland, National Trust ranger at Derrymore explains more: 'Our native bluebell is a lovely dark, violet blue, with a drooping head and flowers that hang down on one side of the stem.  They are often associated with ancient or long-established woodland and it can take up to five years for a bluebell bulb to develop from a seed."

A cluster of white bluebells pictured outside Derrymore House
A cluster of white bluebells pictured outside Derrymore House
A cluster of white bluebells pictured outside Derrymore House

White Bluebells

“Very occasionally, within a population of bluebells, a genetic mutation may occur, which results in a white flowered bluebell.  It is estimated that the proportion of blue to white flowered bluebells is 10,000 : 1. 

In the woods of Derrymore there are only a handful of these wild white bluebells but we think that at some stage in the past, the occupants of Derrymore House, or the gardeners on the site, collected the white bluebells and propagated them, planting them around the house where they have now multiplied and are growing happily beside their more conventional blue companions.”

A group of white and blue bluebells at Derrymore House
A group of white and blue bluebells
A group of white and blue bluebells at Derrymore House

In folklore, bluebells are also known as ‘fairy flowers’ and that the story goes that picking one could result in being led astray or trapped by fairies.  Surely the rare and beautiful white bluebell must be even more magical!

Bluebells are under threat from habitat destruction and hybridisation with non-native bluebells and can also be badly damaged by trampling.  They are protected under the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) Order 2011, making it illegal to dig up the plant.

Bluebells in the woods

Bluebells in Northern Ireland 

In spring time the bluebells are the stars of the show at our places in Northern Ireland. Read our list to find a bluebell bounty near you.