Spring in the City: Woodlands in flower

bluebell flowers on forest floor

Image Andrew Mason

Spring is a spectacular time to visit London's hidden woodlands, when many woodland flowers start flowering early. Later, in April and May, carpets of bluebells provide an amazing display.


Woodland flowers of the forest floor get the business of flowering done early in the year - early enough to make the most of the light before the tree canopy comes into leave.

Which bluebell?

Late in spring, some of our woodland nature reserves start to put on their spring displays of carpets of bluebells.

The English bluebell is losing ground to the Spanish bluebell, a variant which was likely introduced by Victorians as a garden plant from the continent. It's easy to confuse these two varieties, and in many cases you'll find a hybrid of the two, showing a mix of characteristics.  So how can you tell the difference?

English bluebells

English bluebells at Bramley Bank

Native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

  • A sweet scent
  • Pale, creamy-coloured pollen
  • A distinctive 'droop' like the top of a shepherd's crook
  • Narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips
Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells 

© Richard Burkmar

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) and hybrids

  • No scent
  • Stems that are upright
  • Blue-coloured pollen
  • Conical bell-shaped flowers

Flower Power: The Great North Wood in Bloom

Lesser celandine, Biggin Wood

Lesser celandine growing on the bank of a small stream in Biggin Wood.

Delve into the floral complexity of an ancient wooded landscape with a blog post from the Great North Wood team about the fascinating processes of pollination that take place in our woodland reserves,

Read the blog

Did you know?

Around half of the world's bluebells are found in the UK!

 Woodland flowers such as lesser celandine (Ficaria verna), wild garlic (Allium ursinam), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), are all known as ancient woodland indicators because of their association with very old woodland.

An online woodland festival for London

Festival of the Great North Wood
Thursday 1st - Wednesday 28th April

Join us for a virtual celebration of the Great North Wood, with an activity for everyone, including talks and film screenings, craft workshops, woodland yoga, a virtual walk, nature writing and spoken word workshops and a baking workshop - all taking place online.

Find out more about the Festival of the the Great North Wood

Activities and spotter sheets

Woodland wildlife in spring spotter sheet

Discover spring near you

Read more about Spring in the City