Bluebells are usually associated with woodlands, and a carpet of blue under a shady tree canopy easily springs to mind, but they seem to really like the Fylde Coast too!
If you drive along the coast road at St Annes, and keep your eyes out along the verge and dunes that run alongside the road, you’ll see that at the moment there are literally hundreds of bluebells all along the hedgerow. They are near Fairhaven Lake, the wasteland near the pier and growing in the dunes as you approach Squires Gate.
A bit of research reveals that the bluebell has contractile roots which pull the bulb down into the ground that it grows in to search for moisture, which no doubt helps it to thrive in the free draining soft sandy soil of the dunes. They are also able to spread easily through runners, in addition to propogating quite easily by seeding freely.
The native British bluebell can hybridise with the stronger and more virrulent Spanish bluebell – these wild specimens seen at St Annes could be any one of the three. Although the British bluebell is associated with the acidic soils of deciduous forests, they are also quite at home in the alkaline environment of the coast. The further west that you go they become a common sight as we’ve discovered at St Annes and along the Fylde Coast, and even grow on cliff tops.
Bluebells create a wide range of chemicals with potential medicinal properties. They contain at least 15 biologically active compounds that may provide them with protection against insects and animals. Some of these are similar to compounds tested for use in combating HIV and cancer. The bulbs of bluebells are used in folk medicine as a diuretic or styptic, and the sap can be used as a glue.
Bluebells are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and it’s an offence to remove them from the wild – which has no doubt also contributed to their success as their numbers go unchecked. So be quick and keep your eye out for these lovely little blue heads nodding in the breeze!
Bluebells near St Annes Pier
Bluebells in the dunes at St Annes