Are bluebells the first victims of the drought?

Bluebells in Bucknell Wood,off Bracley Lane,Abthorpe.'080507M-D116
Bluebells in Bucknell Wood,off Bracley Lane,Abthorpe.'080507M-D116

Visitors to woodlands in the Advertiser and Review region may only have a short time to enjoy the seasonal show of bluebells, as the drought restrictions come into force.

Experts at the National Trust believe as a consequence of the third warmest, and the fifth driest March on record, bluebells were likely to peak for most of the UK over the Easter weekend.

But low winter rainfall means they could be smaller and less abundant this year. However the dry conditions could mean that those bluebells that do emerge will have a strong scent.

A woodland carpet of bluebells is a familiar sight to visitors of Hazelborough Wood and Bucknell Wood near Silverstone, Finemere Wood near Quainton, and Stoke Wood near Bicester.

National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates, said the weather over the last few weeks had sped up the flowering process and added: ”The absence of rain means that visitors will need to be quick to see them. It could be a short but sweet season for bluebells, and other classic spring plants like the primrose.”

Bluebells start growing in January in an attempt to flower before the other woodland plants but in dry conditions they will flower less, will be less abundant and growth will be stunted.

Mr Oates added: “Easter weekend was set to be the peak time to see bluebells in the south of England but this will vary depending on aspect and altitude. The best displays will be further north, on high ground and on north-facing slopes that flower later.”

The NT are hoping people will help them monitor bluebells online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bluebellwatch, or by Tweeting the first part of their postcode and the hashtag #bluebellwatch.

Half of all the world’s bluebells are found in the UK, but are at risk of disappearing as a result of hybridizing with the scentless non-native Spanish bluebell, often planted in gardens.