THIS month, bluebells are flowering in woodlands across our county.

These iconic flowers now cover the forest floor with their drooping, bell-like blue flowers and their long, pointed leaves.

Being a species that is associated with ancient woodland, the bluebell is protected. This is more important now than ever, because not all bluebells are what they seem.

There is an invasive species of bluebell that is threatening the natives, the Spanish bluebell. Brought to the UK as a garden specimen, it has since escaped into the wild.

It can be identified by stronger and thicker leaves and, crucially, if you look inside the flower, the Spanish bluebell is completely blue. Our native bluebell, above, has, in contrast, got white anthers.

the Spanish bluebell was introduced more than 100 years ago. It is one of several European bluebell species, including the Italian bluebell. and is especially attractive because it can be seen in a number of different colour variants. The most common are creamy white and lilac.

The reason they threaten our bluebells is that the two can breed together and produce fertile hybrids. Over time, the population of bluebells could be replaced by a hybridised one and the original species lost.

You can help by surveying your local bluebells and submitting results to the Natural History Museum’s Bluebell Survey:

Find out more about woodland flowers and how you can get involved at Russ’s website: