A bluebell environmental mascot for Britain?

14 October 2010

Tonight experts are taking part in an Earthwatch debate to choose a native plant or animal species to be an environmental mascot for Britain.

Under consideration are the British bluebell, English oak, song thrush, bumblebee and cold-water coral.

The Natural History Museum's Dr Johannes Vogel, Keeper of Botany, will fight for the iconic bluebell and try to convince an audience why this species should win. 

He explains, 'Bluebells are all around us - in gardens, woodlands, parks. Every child can recognise them and they are the first sign of spring.

'The blue carpets we experience in spring are quintessentially British and unique to these isles. Bluebells are the true British icon and they are a potent symbol of how wildlife and humans can live together.'

The Earthwatch debate takes place at the Royal Geographic Society in London at 7pm and is held annually on different thought-provoking topics.

Engaging with the public

Dr Vogel adds, 'There are many ways that we can engage with the public about the environment, through our exhibitions in South Kensington, our website, our science or meeting people in their environments through initiatives such as OPAL.

'However, I also cherish a very British tradition - the public debate - cheerful and fun, yet full of facts, figures and combative contestants.'


As well as the Natural History Museum's Dr Vogel, the other judges are Dr George McGavin, winner of the 2008 Earthwatch ‘Irreplaceable Species’ debate, BBC Lost Lands presenter and Honorary Research Associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History; writer, campaigner and independent environmental advisor, Tony Juniper; Earthwatch’s own Senior Research Manager for Oceans, Dr Samantha Burgess; Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Professor Stephen Hopper. 

A good contender?

The British bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, is certainly a good contender for environmental mascot for Britain. There is growing concern that it is threatened by breeding with introduced species, something Museum scientists are investigating through the annual bluebell survey.

So, what do you think? Let us know if you agree or if you think there is a species more suitable. Have your say and leave a comment below.

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