The bluebell flower – which is often confused with the hyacinth – is native to the British Isles, as well as Belgium, the Netherlands and areas of France. It is a member of the hyacinthaceae family, and is a spring growing, perennial plant that has been subject to extensive hybridization. The flowers grow from long, slender stems that typically nod in one direction. The blossoms themselves are actinomorphic, meaning they have a distinctive bell shape, which is generally a deep blue, or purple blue shade. The hybrids of this flower may have upright stems, flowers blooming on both sides of the stem, and may be seen in colors of creamy white or pink. Unlike the wild growing variety of the bluebell flower – which commonly has bright white or yellow stamens – the hybrid types may have cyan or blue stamens.
In 1981, the bluebell flower officially became a protected plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the United Kingdom. This legislation is meant to protect the wild-grown varieties of bluebell from becoming extinct in the future, and it has – as of 1998 – become illegal for landowners to remove these blossoms and bulbs from their land for the purpose of trade. It is understandable why those living in the United Kingdom would want to save these flowers – not only are they lovely, but they have become a part of the culture and myth of the area. The bluebell flower has long had a connection with fairy life. It is thought that growing a garden full of bluebells is an invitation to them, and creating wreaths of this blossom – which you would place on an alter – puts you in their favor. On the other hand, it is said that trampling over a bluebell will make the fairies angry, and thus you may find yourself maimed or ill. It is also believed that fairies are able to ring the bell of this flower so as to call to one another. If a mortal were to hear this ringing, however, they would find themselves in grave danger of being kidnapped or killed by the fairy folk. Although all parts of these plants are considered toxic, many still feel that they have some strong medicinal properties. It is thought to be a diuretic and styptic, which has traditionally been used to cure snake bites. Research is also being done on this plant, as it is thought to be a potential treatment for cancer and HIV.
The bluebell flower was once associated with death; however, in more modern times these blooms are thought to represent gratitude and humility. They are often given as gifts to say “thank you,” or to express a humble appreciation of someone in either love or friendship.