Genetic markers, hybridisation and Britain's bluebells

Extinction of the UK's native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) via hybridisation with garden-escaped, non-native Spanish bluebells (H. hispanica) is a current conservation concern. However, despite this conservation issue attracting a large amount of public attention, the perceived threat is based on little hard evidence. One major problem in evaluating the extent of the threat is uncertainty over species limits in this group

A collaborative project between RBGE and the Natural History Museum, London aims to investigate this potential threat to the UK's native bluebells.

Bluebell woodland

A bluebell woodland in May 

The project aims to: 

  • Clarify species limits between Hyacinthoides taxa in Britain and establish their relationships to taxa found elsewhere
  • Assess the extent of hybridisation between native and non-native bluebells in UK
  • Develop a molecular test to distinguish H. non-scripta from other Hyacinthoides taxa
  • Determine which morphological characters are most reliable for taxon identification

For more information on this project please contact Pete Hollingsworth.

See also the related Conservation and Ecology project on Bluebell Ecology.

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)