April 19, 2015

Flower child

My lawn is once again thick with the strap-like leaves of Spanglish bluebells. These vigorous hybrids – often pink, white or pale lilac rather than blue – seem to be doing very well in this part of south London; I see them in the parks and on the common when I walk the dog; I spot them in pavement cracks and stealing slowly into front gardens – those that have escaped being paved over. 

It’s been suggested that nearly all the bluebells in greater London now have some degree of hybridisation. As long as they both bloom at the same time, the Spanish bluebell not only cross-pollinates readily with our native species (a process that was recorded in the wild for the first time in 1963) but the hybrids reproduce more quickly, and that’s causing some concern – though loaded words like ‘aggressive’, often bandied about, should perhaps raise eyebrows when applied to a plant.

As for the mixed-race bluebells in my garden, I wouldn’t mind them at all – but so many of them seem to come up blind.