UK: Bluebell watch


Records have started appearing at the National Trust's bluebell watch. First out of the blocks was Blickling Hall in Norfolk, closely followed by Downhill Demensne and Hezlett House in Northern Ireland.

Ranscombe bluebells by Plantlife

Bluebells at Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm Reserve © Bob Gibbons/Plantlife

With a beautiful start to April continuing it's expected that within a few weeks the landscape will be a riot of colour and life. But the slow start is definitely not all bad news as Dominic Price, a Plantlife botanist, explains:

 "Wildflowers have been noticeably late at flowering across the UK this year, as the bitterly cold winter lingered on well into March. Most spring flowers are bulb forming, and these bulbs are programmed to respond to soil temperatures, which after such a thorough winter freezing are being slow to warm up. Despite the warmer April weather it is likely this lag will continue on into the season with a later bluebell season - current estimates predict a flowering time of mid-April rather than the usual start of April, with many exposed areas not flowering until the end of the month."

Bumper year for spring flowers?

Price continues: "However this delay can probably been seen in a positive light - the worst scenario for spring plants is to be tricked into early germination by a mild winter, only to be killed off by spring frosts. In 2008 several bluebell populations flowered in February, which was certainly more of an anomaly than this years slight delay, and many people believe this led to a less spectacular show of flowers in 2008 than in normal years. In addition the cold weather over the recent winter has also reduced the amount of competitors, including dense choking plants such as nettle and cock's-foot, as well as herbivores including slugs and snails. If the current weather holds it could actually be a bumper year for spring flowers."

Plant Talk is trying to assemble a gallery of the readers' best shots of spring, so please send them in. We're particularly interested in any rarities or success stories you might be working on or discover.

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