Bluebells risk endangerment if people continue to trample on them, charity warns

Bluebells can take at least five years to grow and colonise, but serious damage can take seconds. Credit: Rob Grange / Woodland Trust

Bluebells risk endangerment if people continue to trample on the plants, Wales' largest woodland conservation charity has warned.

The Woodland Trust, also known as Coed Cadw, looks after 100 bluebell sites across Wales and works to better protect the flower.

It's thought the sensitive plants, which usually bloom in April and May, can take at least five years to grow and colonise.

And the charity has warned that people straying from paths for "perfect photos" or to escape crowds is resulting in the plants becoming increasingly rare.

'Those first few footsteps soon turn into man-made paths'

Director Natalie Buttriss explained just how vital the plants are both ecologically and culturally for future generations: "The spectacular spring-time sight of a bluebell-carpeted woodland is something everyone should have the chance to enjoy, and the early blooms provide an important source of pollen and nectar for emerging insects.

"Because large colonies can take so long to establish, they are often found in ancient woodlands.

Once bluebell bulbs are damaged, they cannot produce enough energy to flower and reproduce. Credit: Don Brubacher / Woodland Trust

"Sadly, in Wales, ancient woodland is rare; it covers only 4.5% of the land surface - so the places which remain are extremely precious. It is vital for us to safeguard these areas and protect them, so that future generations can enjoy these important plants for years to come", the charity's director added.

The Woodland Trust, with more than 500,000 supporters, aims to protect and restore ancient woodland, as well as plant native trees and plants to help create a resilient landscape for people and wildlife.

Once bluebell bulbs are damaged, they cannot produce enough energy to flower and reproduce.

Areas which see a high number of people walking through can also cause entire colonies of these delicate flowers to die out.

How you can help protect nature:

  • Stay on the paths

  • Take dog mess and litter home with you

  • Protect wildlife by keeping dogs close

  • Stay fire free

  • Leave sleepovers to the wildlife

  • Be considerate with den building

  • Park with consideration for others

  • Swimming is for wildlife only

  • Check access rules before cycling

Acres of bluebells have already been lost through people trampling on the delicate flowers. Credit: Rob Grange / Woodland Trust

Coed Cadw estate manager Kylie Jones Mattock said: "It can be very tempting to stray from the path for that perfect photo, or to get away from the crowds. But those first few footsteps soon turn into man-made paths, with lots of people doing the same thing.

"We have seen it happen on multiple sites, resulting in the loss of what adds up to be acres of blooms.

"Because of this, we are appealing for visitors to our bluebell woods to enjoy the natural splendour while protecting the flowers - by sticking to proper paths and keeping dogs on leads."

Some of Wales' best bluebell woods include Graig Fawr in Margam and Green Castle Woods in Llangain near Carmarthen.

Bluebells - Did you know?

  • In the language of flowers, the bluebell is a symbol of humility, constancy, gratitude and everlasting love.

  • Bluebells have had multiple uses throughout history, and were not just ornamental; during Elizabethan time, their bulbs were crushed to make starch for the ruffs of collars and sleeves!

  • Bluebells spend the majority of their time underground as bulbs, emerging in droves to flower from April.

  • Many insects reap the benefits of bluebells which flower earlier than many other plants. Woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies all feed on their nectar.

  • Bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).