By Maya Potter.
‘The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care’
There is no greater sight or indication that spring is in full swing than stumbling across a woodland adorned with vibrant, violet flowers. Recognisable by their colour, bell shape and sweet fragrance, bluebells are in abundance from mid April until late May.
The bluebell has many different names from wild hyacinth and bell bottle to the slightly more obscure cuckoo’s boots and witches’ thimbles. The flower is native to western Europe with almost half the world’s bluebells found in the UK. They are usually found in ancient woodland but can also grow in fields and along hedgerows.
The bluebell is a symbol of humility and gratitude but also constancy and everlasting love. There are many myths surrounding the flower, for instance if you turn it inside out without tearing it, you will win over the person you love. Also, by wearing a garland of bluebells, you will be compelled to tell the truth.
There are also numerous folklore tales connecting bluebells with enchanted woods and fairy magic.
The myths relay that fairies gather when bluebells ring, however if a human hears the ringing, a bad fairy will visit them. Also, if a human were to pick a bluebell, some believe they would be lured away by fairies and trapped.
Whilst these stories are quite literally fairy tales, it is actually against the law to deliberately pick or damage bluebells.
Today bluebells are largely seen as decorative but they have had other uses throughout history. Their sap was used for binding books and creating arrows, whereas their bulbs were crushed to make starch for clothing in Elizabethan times. Bluebells are considered to be toxic, however they do also contain biological compounds similar to chemicals tested for use in fighting cancer and HIV.
There is definitely a lot more to this little and not so humble flower than initially meets the eye. It’s currently peak bluebell season so there is still time to experience nature’s cobalt carpet for yourself.
Check out this guide to the UK's best bluebell woods to find out where you can spot them.
Bluebells, another one of natures delights!