Walking Into Wild Bluebells
The wild bluebells I meet on my walk now are nothing like their plumper, cultivated Spanish bluebell cousins. But crikey, there’s a lot of them. After the hosts of golden daffodils have gone over, they come. Numberless herds of tiny Hyacinthoides non-scripta – Wild Bluebells – roam through our woods.
They look so small and delicate. They fold over your hand and die as soon as you pick them – and I shouldn’t anyway. It’s illegal, because they are under threat. Their habitats are disappearing. Or, the wild bluebells risk of being hybridised and outbred by consorting with their Spanish cousins.
In the language of flowers, wild bluebells symbolise constancy, humility, gratitude.
Ours are like wee urchins – scrawny, long legged kids. Stick thin but hardy, their little heads are bowed together, nodding in the breeze, as if gossiping and planning a takeover of the adult world.
Millions of bulbs huddle together underground for most of the year. I tramp over them every day, heedless. Then, in May, they gang up in their hundreds of thousands and act like delinquent weeds. Like festival goers coming to Woodstock, one morning they’re there, colonising whole hillsides for a riotous celebration of electric blue. Kim tries to hippety-hop across them, so he does not squash them.
In a two or three weeks’ time, they’ll be gone again, leaving only a memory of electric blue-violet vibrating in the sun. Almost ultra-violet, against their brilliant emerald green leaves. But today their scent fills the whole wood to the brim. I can get high on it – this is the way to walk into my day!
Their presence is an ancient woodland indicator. It makes me wonder if some of these woods have been continuously wooded since 1600AD – another Woodland Trust indicator of ancientness.
I’ll check it out on old maps. One reason I suspect this patch of the farm has been wooded for over 400 years, is partly because it is economically worthless. It is stony crags, with the thinnest skin of poor soil over it, and trees clinging on for dear life. And rocky gullies, and burns. You could never cultivate this. I hope it means all the species are safe – including the wild bluebells. And the creatures that rely on them.
Bronze Age people fletched their arrows with these pushy little plants’ sap – sticking the feathers to the arrow shaft with it. There are signs of a settlement on the farm.
In the medieval period, monks used bluebells to treat snakebites and leprosy. Bluebells are poisonous; so it must have been a bit hit or miss.
Modern medical research is working to see if their toxic chemicals could become a cancer treatment. If we don’t destroy their habitat, and wipe out yet another old species first.
Scottish folklore says that bluebell woods are linked to magic. It’s fanciful twaddle probably, but I feel that I also walk into my life, a magic corner in my life, by entering them. They say fairies move among bluebells. So bluebell woods and fields are enchanted places.
Of course they are …