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Foreign invaders now threaten bluebell

[Thursday 26 April 2007]
Bluebells carpet the ground in southern Wharfedale

THE long list of English wildlife species being threatened by imported foreigners has added a worrying new victim, the bluebell, very symbol of early summer.

Garden centres have for some time been selling a Spanish bluebells - it is illegal to dig up wild bluebells - but they have escaped from gardens and are now interbreeding with native plants and threatening to take them over.

This is just the latest addition of serious damage in the English countryside caused by imported species. It includes, famously, the American grey squirrel and mink but also less known species like the signal crayfish, the zander fish, and plants like the giant hogweed, which can deliver a serious sting in hot weather, and the Japanese knot weed, which has colonised hundreds of miles of river bank.

The Spanish bluebell has a flowered spike with petals all round the stem and very faint odour, whereas the native has flowers the droop to one side and a much stronger perfume. Enthusiasts who find the Spanish variety in the countryside are being asked to dig them up.

As Daelnet reported last week (see news) ramblers are now being asked to report sightings of bluebells. For more information on the survey and details of how to take part visit www.nhm.ac.uk

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