Skip to page content

Press release

Bluebells in a changing world

Museum calls on public to map Britain's bluebells: www.nhm.ac.uk/bluebells

The Natural History Museum is calling on everyone to search for, identify and record bluebells in their local area to find out how climate change and hybrids are affecting Britain's favourite wildflower.

The web-based survey, called Bluebells: Exploring British Wildlife, provides an online identification guide and simple forms to record sightings. The recordings will be used to map where bluebells grow in the UK, and when they flower. It will also help us understand the evolution and relationship of Britain's two bluebell species, and the level of hybridisation between them. 

'Changing climate conditions and hybridisation may change the British bluebell as we know it,' said Mark Spencer, curator of the British plant collection at the Natural History Museum. 'By taking a closer look at this well-loved flower, everyone can help us build a clearer picture of the bluebell in Britain today.'

Bluebells epitomise British springtime, bursting into colour in April, May and June in woodlands, hedgerows and other shady places. The Spanish bluebell is widely cultivated and thrives in many urban settings such as gardens and parks. Early growth and flowering gives bluebells a head start over later developing plants, but warmer winters may mean they are losing their advantage as other plants start growing earlier.

In addition, a recent survey by wild plant conservation charity Plantlife showed that our native species is hybridising with cultivated bluebells. Hybridisation can alter species genetic make up and make it harder for them to survive. There are two species of bluebell in Britain - the familiar native bluebell or wild hyacinth (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), the cultivated Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica ), plus the hybrid, originating from the native and Spanish varieties.

If you want to help build this detailed profile of our wildlife, then join the survey and play your part. Everybody is welcome to make a difference. For more information, go to www.nhm.ac.uk/bluebells.

Ends

Notes for editors

  • Winner of the 2004 Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries. The Museum is committed to encouraging public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, a major new initiative, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project opened to the public in 2002 and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.

For more information or images, please contact:
Tel: 020 7942 5654
Email: press@nhm.ac.uk