When do bluebells flower? And where to see them

Close up of bluebell flowers
Look out for bluebells blooming in April and May (Photo: David Chamberlain/WTML)

It won’t be long before it’s bluebell time and woodland floors around the country will be awash with a sea of blue. The bluebell is one of our fave flowers, and the UK is home to more than half of the world’s population, so it’s really important that we help protect them.

When do bluebells flower?

Bluebells in a wood
Spot carpets of bluebells in spring (Photo: Kevin Milner/WTML)

Bluebells can flower any time from mid-March to early May. They tend to flower earlier if the weather’s been mild so we often see them first in the south-western parts of the UK where it’s not as cold.

Every year, our Big Bluebell Watch maps bluebells as they appear across the country. They’re also one of the species we record on our Nature’s Calendar website, which will help scientists measure the effect of climate change on the seasons. Tracking the spread of bluebells helps us see how fast spring is moving.

In 2017, the earliest sightings were near Bristol in the second week of February. By the end of March, there were loads in the south and south-east, with a few isolated pockets as far north as Scotland. We’re excited to see that happens this year!

Why do bluebells flower early in the spring?

As most bluebells grow in woods, they flower when the trees are still quite bare and sunlight can reach the woodland floor – and this happens to be during early spring. Once lots of leaves have appeared on the trees, it’s too dark for the plants to photosynthesise.

Where to see bluebells

Bluebells growing among trees
You'll find lots of bluebells in old woods (Photo: Lesley Newcombe/WTML)

Bluebells grow in broadleaved woodland – lots of bluebells can be a sign that a woodland is very old. You might also find them growing in hedgerows and fields.

Want to see an amazing carpet of blue? Then check out our list of top bluebell woods around the country. Don’t worry if they’re too far away. You can search for a wood near you – there’s bound to be one with some bluebells.

Are bluebells protected in the UK?

Yep. We are at risk of losing our pure native bluebells to cross breeding with non-native bluebells. These non-native bluebells have broader leaves and can have blue pollen. You can learn how to tell them apart with our bluebell ID quiz).

It’s against the law to dig up native bluebells in the wild and sell them. When you visit a bluebell wood, make sure you keep to the paths and don’t step on the flowers as this can damage the plants.

Our native bluebells are an important part of our natural heritage. We’re working hard to protect the woodlands where they grow so that people will be able to enjoy them for years to come. Why not join us? Become a family of Nature Detectives from just £5 a month and help us protect these wonderful springtime flowers for future generations.

Let us know when you spot bluebells!

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