On Saturday, thanks to On the Verge Cambridge and Orchard Park Community Council, native bluebells were planted in the Wildlife Area. On the Verge, who kindly provided the plants free of charge, is a voluntary group set up to promote wildflowers and pollinating plants around Cambridge. They aim to “provide an abundance of food sources for pollinating insects which are in catastrophic decline. By providing joined-up corridors of food for pollinators we can help them feed without having to fly long distances. We can make the city of Cambridge welcoming to pollinators through simply planting what they need. Increasing plant biodiversity in our city can have a positive impact on the insect population immediately.” (Source: On The Verge Website).
Thanks very much to Andrew Chan, Chair of OPCC for planting them, obviously we were unable to do this as a group activity in the current circumstances.
The Woodland Trust say “enchanting and iconic, bluebells are a favourite with the fairies and a sure sign spring is in full swing.
Value to wildlife
Many insects reap the benefits of bluebells which flower earlier than many other plants. Woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies all feed on their nectar. Bees can ‘steal’ the nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the flower, reaching the nectar without the need to pollinate the flower.
Bluebells are unmistakable bell-shaped perennial herbs. They actually spend the majority of their time underground as bulbs, emerging, often in droves, to flower from April onwards.
Leaves: are narrow, around 7mm to 25mm wide and 45cm in length. They are strap-shaped, smooth and hairless, with a pointed tip.
Flowers: usually deep violet-blue in colour, bluebells are bell-shaped with six petals and up-turned tips. These sweet-smelling flowers nod or droop to one side of the flowering stem (known as an inflorescence) and have creamy white-coloured pollen inside. Some bluebell flowers can be white or pink. Up to 20 flowers can grow on one inflorescence.
Not to be confused with: Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), which is very similar in appearance to the British bluebell. However, Spanish bluebells grow upright, with the flowers all around the stem, not drooping to one side like the British bluebell. Hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) is a mix of the British and Spanish bluebell. It is often very similar in appearance to our native bluebell, but might threaten its existence by out-competing it and diluting the gene pool.” (source information above was taken directly from the Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) page at The Woodland Trust).
The Cowslips are coming out too, they’re quite prolific on the bank closest the Premier Inn. They’ll be out on the Wildflower Bank outside the school soon, along with the rest of the flowers. For more information on Cowslips click here.
It’s a difficult time for all at the moment, but if there’s any consolation it’s that we’re going into it in spring. I hope people will use it as an opportunity to watch wildlife – it’s good distraction, proven to be good for your wellbeing and could create a greater sense of nature connectedness, which in turn might increase actions people take to help wildlife.