Spanish bluebell

Common Name

  • Spanish bluebell

Latin Name

  • Hyacinthoides hispanica

What’s the problem?

  • Spanish bluebell is a non-native species with widespread distribution over much of the UK and is thought to have been accidently introduced to the wild from gardens.
  • The plant spreads readily by seed and by underground runners which produce new bulbs.
  • This species can hybridise with our native bluebell changing native population genetics. 
  • Both the Spanish bluebell and the hybrids are displacing native bluebells in their natural range.

Legal Implications?

  • Listed as a Schedule 9 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to plant or allow to spread into the wild,
  • Offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 can result in possible fines and prison sentences,
  • It is not an offence to have Spanish bluebells or the hybrids on your land and you do not need to notify anyone on its presence.
  • Soils containing the plant are classified as controlled waste and should be disposed of at licensed landfill.

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In Detail

  • The plant is native to south-western Europe, records of the species in the UK go back to 1683 and is thought to have escaped from gardens in the early 1900’s.
  • Spread of the plant is through seed and vegetatively via the underground white bulbs.
  • The plant prefers shadier areas but will grow in numerous habitats including gardens, woodland and woodland edges and hedgerows.

Identification

  • A medium size perennial herb with white spherical bulbs. The narrow tough green leaves grow 20 to 50cm in length. Each bulb produces 4-8 leaves, these tend to be erect prior to flowing, spreading and falling over later in the season.
  • The plant flowers from April to early June, flowers are lilac to blue in colour and are bell shaped, flaring out or curling back slightly towards the tips. The flowers are generally unscented.
  • Anthers are blue in colour compared to the creamy white anther of native bluebell.
  • All above ground vegetation dies back once the plant has seeded making identification in late summer and winter difficult.

Control Methods

Mechanical:

  • The plants and bulbs can be mechanically excavated and removed although care should be taken to remove all of the plant material as missed bulbs have the potential to propagate new colonies.  The best time to undertake mechanical control is early spring before the plant starts flowing. Bulbs can survive garden composting.
  • Waste materials containing the Spanish bluebells are considered ‘controlled’ waste and must be disposed of appropriately.

Chemical:

  • Bluebells are resistant to many herbicides commonly used in the garden. Applications of herbicide are best made after the plant has flowered, flower heads should be cut to prevent the formation of seed. Repeat applications will be required to deplete the soil seed bank.

When treating large areas, a suitable grass and forb mix should be sown to prevent bare ground and colonisation of other unwanted species.

If you have concerns over Spanish bluebell species on your land, if you are unsure of your legal responsibilities, or, if you would like a quotation for control, please contact one of our specialist surveyors. Treatment costs start at £380.00 + VAT.