SCIENTISTS studying the future prospects of Britain's favourite wildflower are asking for volunteers this week to spend a few unusual hours - counting and identifying bluebells.
Bluebells near Bolton Abbey
In some parts of the Yorkshire Dales, the bluebell show this year has been poor, possibly because these delicate flowers have been hammered by constant rain. Yet in others, it has been superb - one Daelnet reader reported one of the best displays even along the River Wharfe between Bolton Abbey and Addingham.
How this picturesque flower, subject of millions of paintings and photographs over the centuries, is coping with global warming and changing weather patterns is being studied by experts working for the Natural History Museum in London.
One particular concern for the research body Plantlife is that the wild bluebell is cross-breeding with specialised domestic species developed as garden flowers by plant nurseries, thus diluting the natural strain.
Identifying a plant as a bluebell is relatively easy but trying to determine what type it is takes a little more time. The following is a quick key:
Native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta): Flowers normally narrow, straight-sided bells, drooping to one side. Anthers are creamy-white and the flower stalk is usually 3-10mm long.
Hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana): Flower spike and flowers drooping slightly to one side. Flowers are normally open bells, 10-20mm diameter with petals often rolled back slightly. Anthers pale to dark blue and flower stalk usually 8-20mm long.
Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica): Flower spike stiff and upright. Flowers normally wide open bells, 15-25mm diameter. The petals are not usually rolled back.
Anyone interested in helping this important research should log onto: http://www.plantlife.org.uk/