Bluebell Flower Meaning: Stories from Myth and Magic
Bluebell flower meaning includes humility and gratitude. Many flowers that grow close to the ground mean humility. Bluebell flowers also mean constancy and everlasting love. However, the most fascinating bluebell meanings are closely linked to the realm of fairies and the supernatural.
Fairies and Bluebell Flower Meaning
Bluebells are sometimes referred to as “fairy thimbles.” For example, to call fairies to a convention, a bluebell is be rung. In traditional lore, fairies cast spells on those who dare to pick or damage the beautiful, delicate flowers. This led to another name for bluebells: Dead Man’s bells.
Table of Contents: Bluebell Flower Meaning
Bluebell Flower Meaning in Scotland
Bluebells are widely known as harebells in Scotland. The name derives from the hares that frequent fields covered with harebells. Some sources claim that witches turn themselves into hares to hide among the flowers. As a result, other names for bluebells include Witch’s Thimble and Witch’s Bells.
In some parts of Scotland, bluebells are called Aul (Old) Man’s Bells. The Old Man is a name sometimes given to the devil. For this reason, no one would risk disturbing the flower! To do so could lead to very bad luck. The people of Scotland are fond enough of bluebells to continue these traditions in the hopes of protecting the little flower.
Bluebell Flower Meaning in Great Britain
A favorite flower around the world for many centuries, the bluebell is a particularly beloved flower in Britain. Almost half of the world’s bluebells grow in the UK. Bluebells create profuse carpets in older British forests.
To grow well, bluebells need both sun and humidity. Thus, they may be found more often on the edge of a forest rather than deep in the heart of the forest.
In British folklore, a person wearing a garland of bluebells must tell the truth. Additionally, if a person can turn a bluebell flower inside out without tearing the petals, they will win the one they love.
Petal Shapes & Bluebell Flower Meaning
Flowers with a bell-shaped petals are generally viewed as announcing or bringing a message to the viewer. In the case of bluebells, the message is usually positive and encouraging (like the joy of a blue sky or beautiful blue ocean). Bluebells have six petals with a simple and clear shape.
Other flowers unfold from the middle gradually. They may have multiple petals such as a rose or chrysanthemum. These flower symbolize the value of patience. They often have spiritual significance since the process of spiritual development is a long-term endeavor.
Bluebell Flower Meaning and Death
English and Spanish bluebells literally mean death if eaten. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Eating these bluebells will cause vomiting, diarrhea and heart rate decrease.
On the other hand, Mountain bluebells are an edible variety that grow in the western United States on stream banks. The flowers can be eaten raw and the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.
Bluebells are grown from bulbs which can handle both frost and hot temperatures. Mountain Bluebells grow in wet meadows, damp thickets, moist woodlands, floodplains and foothills in the western United States. This includes Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, California and Oregon.
Bluebell Flower Meaning and Ancient Forests
Another bluebell flower meaning is directly connected to nature. Bluebells grow profusely in undisturbed areas. As a species, they can be viewed as a sign that a forest has been around for a long time.
Inn fact, Bluebells are an Ancient Woodland Indicator (AWI) along with lichen and animal species including slugs and snails. A forest with abundant bluebells may have been growing continuously for hundreds of years. Some forests featuring bluebells can be dated back to 1600AD.
Bluebells tend to grow in forests with sycamores, beeches and oak trees. Bluebells seem to have a preference for pointing south. In a group of bluebells, the flowers are likely to all be pointing the same direction.
Color Symbolism & Bluebell Flower Meaning
Although bluebells are almost always blue, there are white and pink varieties. These occur as natural mutations. Bluebells have also been propagated to introduce new colors.
Bluebell Flower Color Meaning: Blue
Blue flowers have highly positive meanings. In the natural world, blue is connected to water and the sky. Water is the source of life. In addition, blue skies mean optimism and possibilities. Accordingly, the color blue means freedom, strength and new beginnings. Blue is calming and cooling. Blue is related to both strength and peace.
Bluebell Flower Color Meaning: White
White bluebells symbolize purity, contemplation and innocence. Many night-flowering plants are white, symbolizing the feminine energies of the moon. White is also related to inner illumination and spirituality.
White bluebells are perfect for busy, profuse gardens where the viewer may need respite from multicolored blossoms. White is also the color of protection, peace and calm. In some cultures white means death while other cultures associate black with death. In either case, white is generally associated with heaven and the afterlife.
Bluebell Flower Color Meaning: Pink
Pink bluebells symbolize love and healing from grief, anxiety or emotional trauma. Pink is related to warmth, gentleness, beauty, and an outward orientation.
Bluebell Flower Color Meaning: Purple
Purple bluebells are symbols of forgiveness, apologies and moving forward. Purple and violet colors soothe the mind and nerves. Some color psychologists say purple helps to relieve tension and dissipate anger and violence.
The violet and purple colors represent the qualities of transformation, transmutation and the balance of power and love. Additional meanings include charisma, charm, magical abilities and tolerance.
Bluebell Flowers and Herbal Medicine
Mountain bluebells also have medicinal uses. For example, the Cheyenne Indians used Mountain bluebells medicinally. They used an infusion of leaves for smallpox and measles.
After childbirth women took an infusion of the whole plant to increase milk flow. Powdered roots were used for itching from smallpox.
In England, bluebells were used in folk medicine as a diuretic to reduce water retention or as a styptic to check bleeding from a wound. Other traditional uses included snake bite remedies.
Bluebell Household Uses
Aside from medical uses, the starch from the bulb of a bluebell could be used as glue for attaching feathers to the shaft of an arrow. The glue from bluebells has also been used for binding the cover on a book.
Historically, the starch was also used as a laundry aid to stiffen the ruffs on sleeves. Ruffs were worn by both men and women from the mid-16th century into the 17th century.
Shakespeare and Bluebell Flower Meaning
The play Cymbeline is thought to be one of Shakespeare’s final plays. The storyline involves deceit, seduction and forgiveness. The play is loosely based on the historic Celtic king Cunobeline. In Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2, the character Arviragus exclaims:
Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele,
I’ll sweeten thy sad grave: thou shalt not lack
There is some controversy about whether Shakespeare is referring to bluebells or wild hyacinths. The English bluebell is Hyacinthoides non-scripta, meaning unmarked. This Latin name is a reference to the lack (non-scripta) of the mythical letters that mark the hyacinth flower in Greek mythology. Read more about bluebell flower meaning and Greek mythology below.
Greek Mythology: Hyacinths and Bluebells
Bluebell Flower Meaning in Dreams
Bluebell flower meaning in dreams combines the symbolism of humility with gratitude. Bluebells in a dream indicate that you are grateful for all that you have in life. Walking through a field of bluebell flowers in a dream is a positive experience. However, if the bluebells are dark blue, they can mean sadness. Bluebells also carry the connotation that others are looking out for you and that you are doing the same for others in your waking life. This is another characteristic of humility. An arrogant person might not consider how others are feeling in a social situation.
Bluebells Around the World
Bluebells have delicate flowers that hang from a central stem. Bluebells also feature narrow leaves in light to medium green. Many butterflies just leaving winter hibernation are fans of the bluebell’s nectar.
Bluebells are easy to grow. They can handle both sun and shade. They even thrive in neglected gardens. Bluebells are usually grown from bulbs.
The flowers reproduce by creating smaller off set bulbs as well as seeds. Bluebells also grow in pots, tubs and urns. Most bluebells flower early in the year, usually from April through June.
Bluebells are found in North America, Western Europe and North Africa. In some areas they are referred to as wild hyacinths.
In addition to old forests (discussed above), bluebells also grow in grasslands, mountainsides, along the ocean and in brush areas. Bluebells were introduced as garden plants in the late 17th century.
Since 1998, it has been illegal in England for anyone to collect wild bluebells for sale. This is an attempt to preserve the wild species. Garden bluebells are undergoing extensive hybridization. Bluebells are members of the lily family and are native to Portugal and Spain.
Bluebells in Poetry and Song
The beloved bluebell flower has inspired poets, playwrights and composers for centuries. The many bluebells varieties, their striking bell-shaped flowers and their presence in ancient forests add to the mystique of the humble little bluebell flower. Find examples of bluebells in poetry and song in the selections and excerpts below.
Anne Bronte (1820-1849)
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
More about Anne Bronte
Gliding through the fog,
She comes to the clearing,
Bluebells, Bluebells everywhere,
Violets and bluebells,
You can almost hear them ringing,
The breeze whistles through,
The newly sprouting trees and seedlings…
More at Hello Poetry
Million bells waving bright bonnets of blue
Flaunting tall ranks of incredible hue.
Groundbreaking columns of stalks fill the shade
Assailing our senses from every dull glade.
Mid dapple-dim woods we tred without sound
Breathtaking armies of blue all around.
Sun shedding Spring over cold woodland dew,
Highlighting patches of mystical blue….
But I’m going nowhere fast
A darker day has hold at last
Deep in a dream
I set the compass keep spinning
And your love has come too late
And I wave to the garden gate
Wake me up
when the bluebells are ringing
More about Patrick Wolf
The Twelfth of Never
I’ll love you ’til the bluebells
Forget to bloom
I’ll love you ’til the clover
Has lost it’s perfume
And I’ll love you ’til the poets
Run out of rhyme
Until the Twelfth of Never
And that’s a long, long time
Bluebells of Scotland
O where and O where
does your highland laddie dwell
O where and O where
does your highland laddie dwell
He dwells in merry Scotland
where the bluebells sweetly smell
And all in my heart
I love my laddie well
More about Bluebells of Scotland
Flower Symbols: The Language of Love
The information in this article is inspired by the book Flower Symbols: The Language of Love by Kathleen Karlsen. Includes extensive flower meanings and folklore about the world’s most beloved flowers. The perfect gift for yourself or a flower lover in your life!