Scotland

Scotland's bluebells at risk from social media fans

Bluebell woodland Image copyright John MacPherson
Image caption Bluebells are being trampled by people seeking the perfect picture

The survival of Scotland's bluebells is being threatened by people in pursuit of the perfect photograph.

Conservationists warn the appetite for social media content is fuelling the problem at some of the country's ancient woodlands.

Woodland Trust Scotland said bulbs are at risk of dying off if crushed by visitors getting close to the flowers.

George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: "Trampling has become a major problem.

"People are threatening the future of the very flowers they have come to enjoy."

Around half of all bluebells in the world are found in the UK.

The native species is protected and strongly associated with ancient woodland.

'Carelessness'

Bluebells flower between mid-April and late May and displays are coming to a peak.

The trust is advising visitors to keep to recognised woodland paths and make sure larger dogs, in particular, are under control.

Woodland Trust managed bluebell woods include Aldouran Glen, in Dumfries and Galloway; Keil's Den in Fife; and Glen Finglas, in the Trossachs.

Mr Anderson said: "It does seem we are having a particularly bad year for carelessness at some woods.

"Bluebells will be reaching their peak across Scotland in the coming week.

"We absolutely encourage people to get out and enjoy what is one of our great natural spectacles. But enjoy them, don't destroy them."

He said social media and photo sharing sites may be compounding the problem in some locations.

Image copyright Woodland Trust
Image caption Bluebells are coming into their prime

He said: "Stunning images quickly spread online, with location information attached.

"This can generate many more visitors who want to get the same shot.

"That's fine if everyone acts responsibly, but the danger is that trampling increases as the number of visitors goes up.

"This can escalate to cause the worst damage at the most impressive sites. It is heartbreaking."

'Damage'

Not only does trampling spoil the spectacle for others, the weight of feet causes long-term damage to the bulbs.

Mr Anderson said: "They have a brief few weeks to replenish their store of energy from the sun.

"Other plants often shade them out later in the summer.

"If they are trampled it means bulbs may be unable to recharge themselves and so will not come up in future years."

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