Latin name: Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Gaelic name: Bròg na chutais; Fuath-mhuc
Size: Up to 30cm tall
Where: Inchcailloch probably has one of the best displays in the National Park
When: May for flowers
We should never take our bluebell woods for granted. People come from thousands of miles away to see them. Britain has at least a quarter of the entire world population of this little blue flower, which grows in such profusion here that our woodlands are awash in a sweet smelling sea of blue for most of May.
It’s actually the humidity, rather than the woodlands, that bluebells love. If conditions are right you are just as likely to see them on sea cliffs or brackeny hillsides. Because they are so widespread and profuse they provide a valuable food source for bees at the time when many of the queens emerge looking to start new colonies.
Bluebells also hold a special place in people’s lives. Perhaps that’s the reason they have two Gaelic names. One, ‘bròg na chutais’, means ‘cuckoo’s shoes’ – probably because both species appear in our lives at about the same time of year. The other, ‘fuath-mhuc’, literally means ‘the thing the pigs dislike’! Pigs were traditionally grazed in woodlands, and they go out of their way to avoid eating bluebells – the bulbs of which are poisonous.
Sadly some bluebell woods are now under threat because criminals dig up the bulbs to sell to unwitting gardeners – an unwanted side-effect of the increasing interest in growing wildflowers in our gardens. If you do want your own sea of blue make sure you buy your bulbs from a certified source.
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