British bluebells to bloom a month earlier this year
Bluebells across Britain may bloom more than a month earlier than last year following the mild and dry start to 2011, the National Trust predicts.
"Our experts are predicting an early and fantastic display of bluebells this year," the conservation organisation said.
Last year bluebell flowers came out up to three weeks later than normal in some parts of the country, the latest for 15 years, after the coldest winter for more than 30 years. In 2001, bluebells are beginning to bloom a couple of weeks earlier than traditionally, even though last December was exceptionally cold., the Trust said
"An absence of frost in the mild February and March months sped up the flowering process of the bluebell, though a bit of rain will speed them up further," said Trust naturalist Matthew Oates.
"The bluebell starts growing in January with its sole purpose to flower before the other woodland plants which have this year stalled because of the dry weather. This means that the bluebell is relatively free from competition and attracts the early spring pollinators," he says.
Easter weekend (April 22-25) looks set to be the peak time to see bluebells in the south of England but this will vary depending on aspect. Further north, on high ground and on north-facing slopes the flowering will be later, Oates predicts.
The Trust has set up an interactive Bluebell Watch map and is inviting the public to tweet their first sightings of the iconic spring flower.
Half of the world's population of bluebells can be found in the Britain. UK bluebells are currently at risk of disappearing as a result of hybridizing with the scentless non-native Spanish bluebell which have often been planted in gardens, the Trust says.
(c) 2011 AFP