Big freeze holds up bluebell displays

Woodlands carpeted with bluebells are one of the sights of spring – but the harsh winter means the displays are set to be up to three weeks late this year, experts said yesterday.

Bluebells are among the spring flowers – along with magnolias and daffodils – blooming late this year because of the unusually sustained cold weather the UK has suffered in the past few months.

According to the National Trust, bluebells, which require light and warmth coming into the forest floor to trigger growth, are normally at their height around late April or early May.

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In recent years they have come into bloom earlier as a result of milder winters and early springs – peaking as early as April 1 in west Cornwall where they flower first.

But with a cold spring, bluebells are not likely to be in full bloom until around mid May this year. If so, it will be latest peak in flowering for the plant since 1996, the National Trust said.

And rather than the usual "Mexican wave" of bluebell displays spreading up from the south west towards more northern and eastern parts of the country, the woodland flowers are more likely to bloom at once in a shorter burst.

The arrival of displays could also be patchy and dependent on where the woods are located – such as high up or on exposed ground. But they are finally on their way, according to the trust's gardens adviser for Devon and Cornwall, Ian Wright.

To help people find where and when the best displays are, the trust will be setting up a "bluebell watch" page on its website.