Visitors to woodlands will have to get out quick to enjoy the seasonal show of bluebells as experts from the National Trust predict that they will have a short season this year, thanks to the exceptionally dry start to 2012.
The low winter rainfall means that bluebells could be smaller and less abundant this year, but the dry conditions could mean that those bluebells that do emerge will be-well scented.
Matthew Oates, a Naturalist for the National Trust, said: “The warm and dry weather of the last few weeks has sped up the flowering process for bluebells, but the absence of rain means that visitors will need to be quick to see them – it could be a short but sweet season for bluebells, and other classic spring plants like the primrose.
“The bluebell starts growing in January with its sole purpose to flower before the other woodland plants but in dry conditions the bluebell will flower less, will be less abundant and its growth will be stunted.
The Trust is asking people to monitor bluebell sightings through an interactive Bluebell Watch map at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bluebellwatch.
The public are being invited to tweet the first part of their postcode and the hashtag #bluebellwatch to populate the map with sightings, photography and information on when the best time to see bluebells is.
Matthew Oates continued: “The Bluebell Watch map will help us build up a clearer picture in real time of how bluebells are spreading across the country and will be a useful tool for anyone wanting to see these majestic carpets of blue stretching off into the distance.”
Normally bluebells peak in a Mexican wave effect across the country, starting in the south west fanning out across theUKbut dry and challenging springs can make them become more patchy and dependent on their location.
Bluebells depend on warm ground temperatures to help them grow and are normally, but not exclusively, found in old woodland, thick old hedges, bracken-covered hillsides and sea cliffs.
The National Trust is one of the most important organisations in the UK for bluebells as a quarter of the Trust’s woodland is ancient or semi-natural; the ideal habitats for bluebells to flourish.
In 2011 bluebells bloomed a couple of weeks earlier than usual following the mildest February in nearly a decade and a majestic April, while in 2010 bluebells were emerging up to three weeks late in some parts of the country after the coldest winter for more than 30 years.
Half of the world’s population of bluebells can be found in the UK. UK bluebells are currently at risk of disappearing as a result of hybridizing with the scentless non-native Spanish bluebell which were often planted in gardens.