The Bexley Council-approved volunteer project to remove Spanish-native hybrid Bluebells in Bursted Woods, Barnehurst, is now in its third spring. Neighbour and Bexley Wildlife Facebook follower John Holland helped me today and we had taken out a largish sack full of material once it was consolidated, mainly bulbs, but not all had been stripped of foliage.
The UK is important globally for our native Bluebell species, but this hybridises with its Spanish relative which has been planted in gardens, and carelessly thrown or deliberately put into woodlands by well-meaning but ignorant people. The hybrids themselves are fertile, which is where the problems begin.
We were probably a couple of weeks behind the best time to have done this work, given the Cow Parsley has shot up, but it was still possible to pick out the more ‘extreme’ (most Spanish Bluebell-like) plants from their much broader leaves, even if the flowers were over and the seed head wasn’t standing out from the crowd. I’d also made a mental map of where most of these were a couple of weeks ago.
There are bound to be a lot of intergrades that look much like the natives given how long the non-native genes have been ‘at large’ here, but by taking out the specimens showing the more obvious Spanish characteristics, which have been concentrated around the edges of the wood, it should be possible to make sure that the native gene set swamps out the Spanish and the more dainty, richer blue appearance of the plants here is maintained. We do seem to have got out the majority of more obvious hybrid plants now.
If anyone out there is interested in helping set up a Friends of Bursted Woods Group to monitor and enhance the biodiversity of this excellent site, please get in touch!