Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 14:03 UK

Selling native bluebells agreed

bluebells at Llanberis
The Llanberis bluebells have been found to be 'genetically pure'

A mountainside in Snowdonia is the site of an experiment to increase stocks of wild native bluebells.

The owner of the site above Llanberis in Gwynedd has been granted one of the first licences in England and Wales to harvest and sell the wild flowers.

Vera Thoss aims to sell 30,000 this year as part of an ongoing sustainable harvest.

In August last year two men were fined 7,000 for removing bluebells without a licence on the Lleyn peninsula.

Dr Thoss said the idea to harvest the bluebells came to her when she realised she had a "natural resource" on the land she owned.

Genetically pure

Obtaining the licence had been a struggle she said, but work by the Natural History Museum in London raising public awareness of Spanish bluebells verses native bluebells, had helped.

"They needed to develop technology to check genetic purity and as part of a licence being granted they came here last year to sample the population," she said.

Some estimates suggest that the Spanish bluebell has hybridised with up to 30% of the native population.

Because the Llanberis flowers have been assessed to be "genetically pure", Dr Thoss is allowed to sell them or "utilise them in other ways".

"Demand is high because they are Britain's favourite wild flowers, so people would like them in their gardens," she said.

"Think also of new developments where you could have bluebells planted outside," she added.

Vera Thoss
Vera Thoss is hopeful that the experiment can be extended further

Dr Thoss said she thought the flowers were "very pretty".

"I think they have elegance and I like the fact they are scented too," she added.

If successful the Llanberis experiment might provide an alternative to hill farming.

"This is an area too which depends on tourism but here there is an all-round business.

"I hope to paint the hills blue," she added.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to trade in wild bluebells without a licence.

Last year two men were fined a total of 7,000 for stripping bluebells from a site at Llanaelhaearn near Pwlllheli on the Lleyn.

Helen Evans from the Countryside Council for Wales said: "We are looking at it as a research project to see how this can be done without affecting the wider population."

Move to save rare native bluebell
08 Apr 08 |  Tayside and Central
Bluebell thieves raid local wood
26 Feb 06 |  Cambridgeshire

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