Difference Between an English and Spanish Bluebells

There are several differences between the English and the Spanish bluebell, which are obvious once you know what you are looking for.

English bluebell
Spanish bluebell
Flowers are concentrated on one side of the stem Flowers grow around the stem Difference between English and Spanish bluebells
The side of the flower is tubular and straight, with deeply curled tips Conical flowers with petals that splay out at the end Difference between English and Spanish bluebells
Flowers are a deep blue Flowers are pale blue Difference between English and Spanish bluebells
The stalk bends over The stalk is upright English vs Spanish bluebells
Prefers to grow in shady areas beneath  trees in woods and forests Can tolerate full sun and happily grow in open spaces
Narrow leaves (1 – 1.5 cm) Wider leaves (2 – 3 cm)
Anthers are creamy white Anthers are pale to dark blue


What are bluebells?

What are bluebells?

Bluebells are a genus of bulbous perennial plants known for their bell-shaped scented blue flowers that are native to Eurasia. Their preferred habitat is woodland areas where they produce a carpet of blue in spring.

The English or common bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is native to western Europe is an understory perennial that lives in the shade of deciduous forests and woodlands. Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are native to Spain, Portugal, and northwest Africa and can grow in full to partial sun.

The Spanish bluebell was introduced to England by the Victorians as an ornamental plant and managed to escape gardens. It is now widespread throughout the United Kingdom and is considered a threat to native English bluebells. Cross-breeding between English and Spanish bluebells has created a hybrid (H. × massartiana) which may become a dominant species over the native bluebell.

Bluebells in the wild

Frequently asked questions

Should I get rid of my Spanish bluebells?

If you live in the United Kingdom, the removal of Spanish bluebells is recommended, especially if you live close to woodlands. The Royal Horticulture Society in the United Kingdom recommends digging Spanish bluebells and hybrids out when the leaves are visible. Do not put tubers in compost or green waste bins.

Do Spanish bluebells have a scent?

Spanish bluebells have almost no scent, the English bluebell has a strong, sweet and fruity scent.

Are Spanish bluebells invasive?

Spanish bluebells in the United Kingdom are considered invasive and should be removed.

Is it against the law to pick English bluebells?

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) protects bluebells. It is against the law to pick, uproot or destroy English bluebells. Landowners cannot remove bluebells from their land to sell. The problem with picking bluebells is that removing the flower eliminates the potential for seed production, therefore reducing number of bluebells in the wild.