Common Bluebell

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The common bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta (syn. Endymion non-scriptum, Scilla non-scripta) is a spring-flowering bulbous perennial plant.

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Names

The non-scripta or non-scriptum part of the botanical names means "unlettered" or "unmarked" and was intended to distinguish this plant from the classical hyacinth of Greek mythology. This mythical flower (which may have been a wild species of Hyacinthus, Iris or other flower) sprang up from the blood of the dying prince Hyacinthus. His lover, the god Apollo, shed tears that marked the new flower's petals with the letters "AIAI" ("alas") as a sign of his grief.[1]

The English bluebell should not be confused with the Scottish bluebell or harebell, Campanula rotundifolia. Hyacinthoides means "like a hyacinth"; Endymion is another character from Greek myth; Scilla was the original Greek name for sea squill, Urginea maritima.[2]

Other common names for common bluebell include: auld man's bell, bluebell, calverkeys, culverkeys, English bluebell, jacinth, ring-o'-bells, wilde hyacint, and wood bells.[3]

Identification

The common bluebell flowers in April and May. The stems are 10–30 cm long and bend over at the top. The lavender-blue flowers are pendulous, tubular with the petals recurved only at the end. The individual flowers are borne on one side of the flowering stem only. The anthers are yellowish-white or cream and are attached inside the tube more than half-way along the tube. The flowers are pleasantly and usually strongly scented. The leaves, which are all basal, are narrowly linear lanceolate. Variations in colour occur, most usually pinkish or in a white variant, H. non-scripta 'Alba'.[4] Pollination is by insects, including bees. The black seeds may have a long period of survivability and can emerge after several years' absence if suitable conditions recur. The seedlings can flower in two years from seed; as a result, bluebells can quickly spread in suitable conditions.

Hybridisation

In Britain and probably elsewhere there has been extensive hybridisation with the introduced Hyacinthoides hispanica producing fertile seeds. This has produced hybrid swarms around sites of introductions and, since the hybrids are able to thrive in a wider range of environmental conditions, the hybrids are frequently out-competing the native Bluebells. Hybrids show a great range of characteristics and any one of the following features indicates some hybridisation:

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