The classic view of a woodland carpeted in Bluebells is what most people like to see in late spring, but there are concerns that the native species could be lost to the more vigorous Spanish one, Hyacinthoides hispanica or the Hybrid form which results from cross-pollination. H. hispanica was introduced as a garden plant but has escaped and is now established in the wild along with the Hybrid H. x massartiana, which is probably more common.
Identifying Native and Hybrid BluebellsIt is quite easy to distinguish the Native Bluebell, H. non-scripta from the Spanish form by the broader leaves, the different shape of the flowers and the lack of scent from the latter. In both the flowers are borne in racemes, but on H. hispanica the spike is upright with individual flowers arranged around the stem, whereas it droops over in the Native one with the flowers to one side. Also the shapes of the individual flowers differ, the petals are shorter and form an open bell on the Spanish Blubell; those on the Native ones are longer forming a straighter tube and are rolled back at the tip.
The Hybrid forms are somewhere in between the other two with more of the Spanish Bluebell characteristics, ie. broader leaves, little scent and flowers all around the stem which can droop slightly to one side. The petals are shorter and more open at the end similar to the Spanish form, but the tips are rolled back to varying degrees.
A more detailed examination shows differences in the stamens and anthers. The three outer stamens are attached to the petal for about four fifths of their length in Native flowers, about half their length in Hybrid flowers and about one third of their length in the Spanish form. These distinctions are not easily made without having all types together to make comparisons.
The anthers are creamy-white in H. non-scripta, pale creamy-blue in H. x massartiana and clear, mid-blue in H. hispanica.
It can be difficult to remove unwanted Hybrid or Spanish Bluebells using cultural methods as the bulbs are easily missed when digging. Also if the flowers have matured there will be seed present which will germinate later. The best time to tackle them is when they start to grow in the spring time, when it is possible to follow the leaves down to the bulbs (if the type has been identified in earlier years). This will probably have to be repeated later as seed germinate or surviving bulbs re-emerge.
Rarer pinkish or white forms can occur and the latter can sometimes be mistaken for the Three-cornered Leek.