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How we care for bluebells

Bluebells at sunrise in the Great Wood at Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Bluebells in the Great Wood at Blickling Estate | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

The National Trust is one of the most important organisations in the UK for native bluebell conservation. A quarter of the woodland in our care is ancient or semi-natural – the ideal habitat for English bluebells. Find out what we're doing to look after the UK’s native bluebell population, and how you can help us to protect this much-loved wild flower.

Why bluebells need our help

Bluebells are an essential part of our natural heritage. Almost half the world's bluebells are found in the UK and colonies of this delicate wild flower take a long time to establish – around five to seven years from seed to bloom. They're considered so important that they're a protected species in the UK. It's against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy bluebells.

Bluebells have soft, succulent leaves that are particularly sensitive to being trodden on. Once the leaves are damaged, they are unable to absorb the sun and photosynthesise, so they die back. In turn, this means they can’t put food back into their bulbs, reducing their ability to produce flowers and seeds.

The problem with popularity

When we see bluebells in full bloom, it can be so tempting to step into the middle of the colourful carpet to take the perfect photo. But trampling on these delicate flowers causes them long-lasting damage.

Surely just one quick photo can't hurt?

Unfortunately, if one person walks on the bluebells, this encourages more people to do it too. In popular bluebell woods, narrow tracks made by one person soon become wider as more people walk the same route. The bluebells then end up in island-like patches instead of the blue carpet we all love.

The bulbs also become damaged when the soil is compacted from the weight of persistent footfall.

Visitors walking on the path through bluebell woodland at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.
Visitors walking on the designated path through bluebell woodland at Hatchlands Park, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

How we're protecting bluebells

In the most popular bluebell areas we care for, we've taken decisive measures to control the number of visitors and the flow of people as they walk along the route. Establishing clearly marked paths for visitors to walk along means that we can all enjoy the bluebells now, while still preserving the flowers for future generations.

Help us to help the bluebells

We want everyone to enjoy the springtime spectacle of bluebells in bloom. You can help us to protect them by following our guidance:

  • Never stand on or walk through patches of bluebells.
  • If there's a marked route to follow, always stay on the path.
  • Never pick bluebells to take home.
Konik ponies on Bakers Fen at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire

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From ancient trees to bees and butterflies, our places are full of life. We're working hard to safeguard nature for years to come.

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