Bulb Planting Volunteers Please on Saturday 28th November from 11.00 am

We will be meeting up at the pond on Saturday 28th November from 11.00am onwards to plant native bluebells and daffodils.  Weather permitting !

Can you help us ?  Whatever time you can spare would be greatly appreciated.  May we ask you to bring your own tools – e.g. spades/hand trowel/gloves and don’t forget the wellies.

We would now like to add to this display by planting native bluebells and daffodils in the meadow surrounding the pond where they will provide beautiful spring colour, and enhance the tranquility of this area of Eaglesfield Park.     We hope you agree – let us know!

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The Parks and Open Spaces of the Royal Borough of Greenwich have kindly donated  2,000 native English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and 2,000 Daffodils (Narcissus pseudo narcissus) but, of course, they need to be planted!

Britain’s native bluebells are under threat from an aggressive hybrid.  Please help us plant native bluebells around the pond.

I thought you might find the following helpful for distinguishing between our native English bluebell and the Spanish bluebell. (Information from the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust – http://www.bbowt.org.uk )

The UK is an international stronghold for bluebells, with more than a quarter of the world’s population found here. More than that, taking a walk through a sweet-smelling carpet of nodding bluebells is one of the definitive experiences of an English spring, and one that I look forward to every year.

Sadly, our native bluebell is losing ground to an insidious competitor: the Spanish bluebell.  Introduced by the Victorians as a garden plant, the Spanish bluebell has made it ‘over the garden wall’ and out into the wild. Here, it crossbreeds with our native plants and produces fertile hybrids with a mix of characteristics.

You can use the information below to help you know what kind of bluebell you are looking at. If you see any of the characteristics of the Spanish bluebell then you are looking at a hybrid.

Native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta0)                                          Photo by Phillip Precey                                                       

english_bluebellDistinctive ‘droop’ like the top of a shepherd’s crook
Sweet, cool perfume
Narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips
Creamy white pollen


Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica)                              Photo by Richard Burkmar

spanish_bluebellUpright stems
No scent
Conical bell-shaped flowers with open tips
Blue pollen


Help protect our native bluebell – avoid planting Spanish bluebells in your garden. Although pretty, they are aggressive and can spread into nearby woodland where they breed with our native bluebell.

I also came across the following information on the BBC News Website.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17597489 .    It is quite lengthy but I think well worth reading.  It would be very sad if our native bluebell disappeared.

Bluebells: The survival battle of Britain’s native bluebells (By Hannah Briggs)    Britain’s native bluebells are under threat from an aggressive hybrid, so could they disappear completely?
The bluebell is a quintessential sign of British springtime, with the vast spreads of tiny blue flowers found across Britain in April and May.

In fact, the UK’s woodlands are home to almost 50% of the global population of our native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). With its unique scent and the very delicate form and structure of the flowers, it is an extremely special flower, say experts.

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Native English Bluebells

“We have some of the best bluebell carpets in the world,” says Katie Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust. “People don’t necessarily realise, but we’ve got just the right damp climate for them.”

But our native bluebell is now under threat from an aggressive hybrid. And with the UK being home to such a large chunk of the world’s population, it means this bluebell is threatened on a global scale. It’s ringing alarm bells for conservationists.

Many of the bluebells found in our gardens and urban areas are not the traditional British flower, they are in fact an aggressive hybrid (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) – the product of cross-breeding between the native bluebell and the Spanish variety (Hyacinthoides hispanica).

This hybrid was first recorded in the wild in 1963. It’s highly fertile and has spread rapidly in the UK’s urban areas.

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Native English Bluebells

But more worryingly, its distribution has also been increasing in woodland areas – the preferred habitat of the UK’s native bluebell and home to some of its oldest populations.
“Evidence shows that when a hybrid bluebell has got into a woodland area it does have the ability to take over,” says Nicola Hutchinson, head of conservation for the UK charity Plantlife  http://www.plantlife.org.uk


Native English Bluebells

“Native bluebell woodlands are one of Britain’s most iconic countryside images and we should make every effort to protect them.”

There are concerns that hybridisation could dilute the distinctive traits of our native bluebell over time, according to Dr Mark Spencer from the Natural History Museum.
To make matters more complicated, identifying the hybrid in order to assess its rapid spread is no simple matter – even botanists struggle to tell them apart, says Spencer.

When identifying bluebells, it is important to look at flowers that have just opened. Older flower spikes are less unidirectional and more upright. Also pollen may be lost and the flowers could have lost their scent.

“The hybrids are incredibly variable, which makes identifying them difficult,” says Spencer. “Some hybrids will be almost identical to the Spanish plant, while others are almost identical to the native.

Spanish Blluebells

“Sometimes you cannot tell the difference unless you apply DNA analysis.”

Dr Deborah Kohn, a research associate at the Barrett Laboratory at the University of Toronto, has been investigating the hybridisation of bluebells in southern Scotland for several years.

Her research focuses on the natural crossing rate between native and non-native bluebells, which she believes is now the main source of threat to our native species.

Although they may still outnumber non-natives by 100 to 1, the possible scale of eventual change in native populations should not be underestimated, she says.
Dr Kohn planted native and non-native bluebells together in recent research experiments. She found that in just three years the non-natives had reproduced at a much greater rate than the natives had.

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Native English Bluebells

So could this spell the end of the British bluebell?

“There are certainly areas in southeast England where the bluebell will become a somewhat different plant to what it was several hundred years ago,” says Spencer.

“There’s even evidence that this is already happening. In London for example, nearly all plants will have varying degrees of mixture with the Spanish bluebell.”

But he does not think it’s a “death knell” for our native bluebell, but spreads in ancient woodland could change irreversibly.
“What we have done may cause irrevocable change to a species for which we hold the major proportion of examples in the world. We should therefore act as we directly caused the problem.”

What could help stop the spread of the aggressive hybrids is milder weather, says Kohn.

“I think this early milder weather might separate out the flowering times of the native and hybrid bluebells. At the moment they overlap completely and can only hybridise when the flowering in synchronous.

“But if this strange weather means that they overlap less, then it would reduce the chance of them hybridising.”

The Natural History Museum http://www.nhm.ac.uk  runs a public survey of when and where bluebells start flowering and members of the public are invited to upload details of bluebell sightings, along with photos, on to an interactive Google map .

“Effectively as gardeners in the last 200 years we’ve undone 8-10,000 years of isolation by bringing together the Spanish bluebells with our native species,” says Professor Fred Rumsey, fellow botanist at the Natural History Museum.

Additional reporting by Michelle Warwicker.

Tips from Plantlife:  http://www.plantlife.org.uk and  Vera Thoss, one of the only three licensed native bluebell suppliers in Britain:
Plant bluebells in an area that gets plenty of sun during winter, which is when they begin to produce leaves.
Bluebells don’t need to be fed as long as they have winter sun.
Dispose of bluebell bulbs carefully – never plant or dump garden plants in the countryside.
Compost unwanted bulbs carefully and make sure bulbs are dead by drying them out thoroughly before putting them on the compost.

Do you remember the crocus bulbs that were planted a couple of years ago?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ‘Thank you’ to everyone who helped to plant 8,000+ bulbs.  The crocuses along the bank of Cleanthus Road now provide a magnificent display and great pleasure to park visitors.  We hope you will help us to add to this display and protect our native bluebells and daffodils.



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