Bluebell blooms hit the brakes after a chilly spring

Summer in the UK has been exceptionally slow to start this year. A citizen science project called Nature’s Calendar has confirmed that bluebells waited until mid-May to flower, while creamy-white elderflower and rowan have only recently started to bloom. And when we look at the weather Britain has had this year, it is perhaps not surprising that nature has delayed the signs of spring.

Briefly lulled into thinking spring was on the way by the warmest March day in 53 years, we were rudely reminded that winter had not gone away with April bringing 22 ground frosts, compared with the average 12, and just 20.1mm of rain, making it the fourth driest April on record.

But April’s shortfall in rain was more than compensated for by what has turned out to be one of the wettest Mays on record.

Bluebells are primed by the temperatures they experience during February and March, the months when their leaves emerge from the ground. Normally this signals the start of a race, with bluebells sprinting to get their flowers out before leaf canopies block the light. But this year has shown they are also capable of slamming on the brakes, protecting the delicate reproductive parts of their flowers by waiting for the April frosts to pass.

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