A path winding through a forest of bluebells in Hertfordshire
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Bewitched by the fairy flower. Bluebells in Hertfordshire
For a few weeks every spring, beneath the woodland canopy, one of the most enchanting flowers begins to bloom. The bluebell is known by many names including ‘fairy flower’, bewitching walkers with its strong, sweet scent. In folklore, a blooming bluebell carpet indicates a mystical place where fairies live. They were said to hang their spells on the flowers to dry, which, if disturbed, unleashed magic. Children were warned that picking bluebells would cause them to be spirited away while adults were doomed to wander the woods and never escape. And for those unlucky few who heard the fairies ring the bluebells for their gatherings, it was a sign that death was imminent, a belief that inspired another name for bluebells: 'dead men's bells’.
The truth of the matter is that bluebells are considered toxic. Ancient fairy stories were a useful way to discourage people from handling them. But their beauty can be admired on woodland walks in the UK, which is home to about half of the world’s bluebell population. They are usually found in areas that have been woodland for more than 400 years, attracting bees, butterflies and hoverflies, not to mention admiring glances. This woodland wildflower spectacle is a sign spring is in full swing.