Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Monday, 5 April 2010 10:48 UK

Prolonged winter holds up bluebells' bloom

Bluebells in Hatchlands Park in Surrey
The flowers need light and warmth on the forest floor to trigger growth

Bluebells could be up to three weeks late coming into bloom this year, due to the harsh winter.

In recent years, mild winters and early spring have meant the bluebell has appeared as early as 1 April in west Cornwall where they flower first.

But with the UK experiencing a cold spring, bluebells are not likely to be in full bloom until around mid-May this year, the National Trust said.

If so, it will be latest peak in flowering for the plant since 1996.

Bluebells, which require light and warmth coming into the forest floor to trigger growth, are normally at their height around late April or early May, the National Trust says.

'Bluebell watch'

Magnolias and daffodils have also been blooming late this year because of the unusually prolonged cold weather in the UK.

This year's bluebells are more likely to bloom at once in a shorter burst rather than displays gradually spreading up from the south west towards more northern and eastern parts of the country.

And the arrival of woodland displays could also be patchy and dependent on where the woods are located - such as on high or exposed ground.

The National Trust's gardens adviser for Devon and Cornwall, Ian Wright, said: "Bluebells are the iconic plant of spring. There's hardly anything better than walking through some nice woodland full of bluebells."

The trust has set up a "bluebell watch" page on its website to show where it is best to see the flowers.

The plant is threatened by Spanish bluebells, an invasive species which has escaped from gardens and interbreeds with the native bluebell to produce a hybrid.

Mr Wright added: "We shouldn't take for granted what naturally occurs in the country - this is one of the things we can't replicate, that fantastic bluebell wood."

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