Countryfile Magazine - - May In The Country - by Kevin Parr

A soli­tary blue­bell ap­pears del­i­cate and de­mure, hang­ing its head like a coy child. Yet as part of a troop it de­liv­ers one of our most pow­er­ful flo­ral dis­plays. Through early spring, as the daf­fodils and snow­drops take cen­tre stage, the bulbs of the blue­bell are con­tent to bide their time. They wait un­til the trees be­gin to green be­fore send­ing forth leaves of their own. By now, the days are long and warm, and the blue­bells must re­spond swiftly be­fore the for­est’s canopy blocks out the pre­cious sun­light. The flowers un­furl as one, car­pet­ing the wood­land in a shim­mer­ing sea of vi­o­let that floats ethe­re­ally above a sharp gloss of green. The stem curls be­neath the weight of a dozen bell-shaped flowers, each one formed from six lobes that curl back to ex­pose the an­thers. The flower is smooth and un­marked, a qual­ity that led to its Latin et­y­mol­ogy. When Carl Lin­naeus was clas­si­fy­ing the flower in the 18th cen­tury, he re­ferred to Ro­manoGreek leg­end for in­spi­ra­tion. After the hero Hy­acinthus fell, Apollo took his blood and with it cre­ated a flower. The god wept, and his tears marked the newly formed petals, re­sult­ing in the nam­ing of the genus The per­fume of the blue­bell can be in­tox­i­cat­ing, though it is a smell un­der threat. The non-na­tive and al­most odour­less Span­ish blue­bell has spilled from gar­dens and parks, hy­bri­dis­ing with our na­tive blue­bell and neu­tral­is­ing May’s tra­di­tional wood­land waft.

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