Did you know we are in the midst of Scotland’s Nature Festival? From 17 to 25 May, Scotland celebrates the diversity of nature across the country with over 160 events. We asked Bob, our Natural Heritage Advisor, to introduce some of the nature on show at our sites. Lucky for us it’s the season for Bluebells!
Last week took me to Seabegs Wood, part of the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site. As well as the wall banks and ditch, the site includes an area of semi-natural ancient woodland. Semi-natural woodland is land which retains a native tree and shrub cover that has not been planted.
These woodlands are noted on maps dating back to the map drawn up by William Roy, an Assistant Quartermaster in the British Army, in 1755. This was carried out as a result of the Jacobite uprising and the final battle of Culloden. Military commanders in Scotland found themselves greatly embarrassed for want of a proper Survey of the Country and ordered it to be carried out as part of the strategy to prevent a further uprising.
It is not only the maps that indicate old woodland. Some woodland plants do not readily spread by seed, they spread slowly by vegetative propagation via rhizomes, stolons or suckers. Seabegs Wood is full of bluebells, one such plant.
Bluebells are not only nice to look at, they have been used throughout history by man. In the Bronze Age, people used bluebell glue to attach feathers to their arrows, and in the middle ages the same glue was used by bookbinders. The Victorians used starch from crushed bluebells to stiffen their collars and sleeves. They have also appeared in folklore, where hearing a bluebell ring is a sign of impending death!
Bluebells are an important source of nectar for insects, especially in the early spring after the dearth of the winter. Bumblebees are too fat to get into the bell, so they ‘steal’ the nectar by biting a hole in the base of the flower.
Which HS sites are your favourites for bluebell spotting? Tell us in the comments below!