Thursday, May 4, 2017

Peak Bluebell

This was the scene this afternoon in Hollingside wood, about a mile south of Durham city centre.

On a mild, still spring day the scent was intoxicating. The 17th. century herbalist John Gerard, who knew these flowers as the English Jacinthe or Hare-Bel, thought it 'a strong, sweet smell, somewhat stuffing the head.....'

In The Englishman's Flora (1958) Geoffrey Grigson lists almost 50 county or regional names for bluebell, that include adder's flower, blue bonnets, blue bottle,crow-bells,, cuckoo's stockings, fairy bells, goosey-gander, griggles, pride of the wood, rook's flower and ring o' bells ..... but the one I like best, from Kent, is snapgrass, said to be derived 'from the rubbing, clicking noise of the stalks when gathered'.

The bulbs were once harvested to make glue.

This is how John Gerard described them, in The Herbal or General History of Plants, published in 1633:

'.....the root is bulbous, full of a slimy glewish juyce, which will serve to set feathers upon arrows instead of glew or to paste books with.....'


  1. There is nothing, in my estimation, to beat Bluebells in a wood in Spring. So fragrant and so beautiful.

    We were in Scotland a week or so ago and noticed that they were growing in profusion in what had been Sitka Spruce forest but, where the trees had been harvested the Bluebells had taken over the ground. I like to think that it was in jubilation.

    1. I completely agree. The florist shop smell is intoxicating.There are places in Teesdale where they grow in open fields that must once have been wooded. The trees are gone but the bluebells remain.


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