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Hyacinthoides non-scripta (bluebell)

Bluebells, almost half the global population of which is found in the UK, can create a stunning carpet of woodland colour during the spring.
A bluebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Image: Peter Gasson)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (L.) Rothm.

Common name: 

bluebell, wild hyacinth, wood bell, fairy flower, bell bottle

Conservation status: 

Widespread, protected by legislation and not considered to be under immediate threat (although concerns exist regarding cross-breeding and climate change).

Habitat: 

Woodland, hedgerows, shady banks, under bracken on coastal cliffs and uplands.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, indicator of ancient woodland, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

All plant parts contain glycosides and are poisonous. The sap can cause contact dermatitis.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Asparagales
Family: 
Asparagaceae
Genus: Hyacinthoides

About this species

Hyacinthoides non-scripta has a bulb and nodding heads of blue flowers; it is native to western Europe, where it is found in deciduous woodlands, flowering in late April or early May. A woodland floor covered with flowering bluebells is a stunning sight, and often forms a popular, seasonal tourist attraction.

H. non-scripta was for a long time known as Scilla nutans and then Endymion non-scriptus, and may well be encountered in earlier literature under these names. Bluebells grow best in undisturbed soil and need plenty of light in early spring. Their rich nectar provides food for many butterflies and other insects. Bluebells contain toxic glycosides and humans can be poisoned if the bulbs are mistaken for spring onions and eaten. Cattle, horses and dogs have been reported to suffer digestive problems after eating bluebell leaves.

Synonym: 

Endymion non-scriptus, Scilla non-scripta, Scilla nutans

Genus: 
Hyacinthoides

main info

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