'˜Like the blue sky, breaking up through the earth'

Bluebells are a harbinger of spring but, according to some, the fragrant flowers are later than usual this year, due in part to the recent cold snap.
PIC: Scott MerryleesPIC: Scott Merrylees
PIC: Scott Merrylees

Like magnolias and daffodils, they are somewhat beholden to the weather, requiring light and warmth in order to grow.

Bluebells enjoy the relative comfort of the forest floor, as their bulbs prefer shade and well drained soil during the summer.

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When they do bloom, they often transform areas into hypnotic wonderlands for a few short weeks. This week’s picture was taken at Renishaw Hall, near Sheffield, where the enigmatic flowers form a carpet beneath the trees.

As well as being a source of food for many species of insect, the flowers have long been associated with truth and love in mythology. It was said of old that wearing a necklace of bluebells would compel one to tell the truth and that if you could turn a flower inside out, you would win the heart of a true love.

Hoary traditions aside, bluebells have long been associated with Great Britain. It is estimated that between 25 and 50 per cent of the world’s bluebells are to be found in the UK.

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson spoke of bluebell juice being used to cure snake-bite and said they resembled “the blue sky, breaking up through the earth”, while John Keats said the bluebell was the “sapphire queen of the mid-May” and is said to have believed it symbolised solitude and regret.

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The bluebell’s scientific name is hyacinthoides non-scripta: it is a hyacinth, related to irises and orchids. But it actually takes its name from ancient Greek mythology, the epithet ‘non-scriptus’, which means ‘unlettered’ or ‘unmarked’ intended to distinguish it from the classical hyacinth of Greek myth, which was said to have sprung up from the blood of the dying prince Hyacinthus.

It is not to be confused with the harebell, to which Shakespeare referred in Cymbeline, which is unrelated and which is prevalent in Scotland.

Technical details: Panasonic Lumix GX7 camera with a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens, 1/25oth sec @ f8, ISO 200.