Are Spanish hybrid bluebells displacing British blooms in St Augustine's Church Yard?

Are pale Spanish hybrid bluebells displacing genuine British blooms in St Augustine’s Church Yard?

With the EU referendum only weeks away it’s now feared that another kind of immigration crisis may have developed in – of all places – Penarth’s  tranquil St Augustine’s Church Yard.

Here, the annual crop of spring bluebells is now in full flower –  but some local gardeners believe there are signs that Penarth’s original wild bluebell may be becoming hybridised  with a continental variety….from Spain .

Wild Bluebells of various hues flowering at St Augustines (Photos Sian Goldsworthy

Wild Bluebells of various hues flowering at St Augustines (Photos Sian Goldsworthy)

Bluebells – real British ones – have been growing on Penarth Head for the best part of a 1,000 years  – long before the present William Butterfield church was built.

Most of them are what are called the “Hyacinthoides non-scripta” (British) bluebells – the ‘real deal’ –  the genuine article – but some of the flowers currently blooming the churchyard display traits of their paler Iberian counterparts, the “Bluebell hispanica.” 

The original St Augustine's Church stood for for nearly 700 years

The original St Augustine’s Church was part of the Black Canon’s priory on Penarth Head

The original St Augustine’s Church (see above) was erected between 1186 and 1191 on the highest point of Penarth Head after Osbert de Penard granted a swathe of manorial land to William Saltmarsh (Bishop of Llandaff, Prior of Bristol and Lord of the Manor of Penarth)  for  the use of the ‘Black Canons’ – the austere order of monks who worked the headlands .

In every one of the 830 years since then, British bluebells have blossomed every spring at St Augustine’s churchyard – but now that could be set to change

The pale blue bluebells on the left look suspiciously Spanish - says horticulturalists. (Photo Sian Goldsworthy)

The pale-blue bluebells on the far left look suspiciously Spanish – say horticulturalists. (Photo Sian Goldsworthy)

This year’s crop of bluebells appear  to show that the pure-bred British stock may be becoming  hybridised with the hardier Spanish variety. The British bluebells are a usually mid to dark blue and have a bell-like flower that hangs down – like a bell. They’re also scented.

The Spanish bluebells however can be a much lighter colour and their flowers don’t hang down in quite the same way as the real thing – and there’s virtually no scent.

…As to which species will prevail in Penarth – we may have to wait another 1,000 years to find out.


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  1. andrew davison says:

    The Habitat and Heritage Group of the Friends of St Augustine’s are currently developing a scheme to enhance the churchyard at St Augustine’s so that residents and visitors to the town can enjoy the peace and tranquil atmosphere as well as the wonderful views. The group have been working with South Wales Wildlife Trust who have completed a survey of the churchyard and have discovered a wide variety of wildlife. Another aim of the Habitat and Heritage group is to improve the churchyard as a place for wildlife to thrive. Anybody who would like to assist with the project would be most welcome and should contact the Friends of St Augustine’s.

    • Martin gossage says:

      Well said . Keep up the good work .One day we will have a new Belle Vue Pavillion aswell and the Albert Triangle will be the place to be . Up the Triangle!!!

  2. sjleworthy says:

    it’s been this way for several years as far as i can recall. it’s a beautiful sight, long may it last 🙂

  3. Peter Church says:

    Don’t tell UKIP or they will all be dug up and sent back to Spain.

Comments are closed.