Ever seen a carpet of blue flowers? In several Belgian forests, the first bluebells of the year have started to bloom. But beware, they’re gone before you know it.
In a few weeks time, one tiny little flower will send droves of people to the Hallerbos forest near Brussels. Not just Belgian nature lovers, but vast crowds of bluebell fans from all over the world.
Because they form large purple-blue carpets on the forest floor – and because they make for amazing Instagram pictures – bluebells have become a proper hype in recent years. The Hallerbos even gives a daily update about their flowering status on their website.
When the bluebells will bloom is a mystery, as it depends on the weather in the early months of the new year. They’re also quite a rare sight. Bluebells are only found in ancient woodlands in Western Europe, mainly under beech trees. Their magic carpets only last for a few weeks, usually in the second half of April and the start of May.
Want the scientific explanation for why they’re such a pretty picture? “The 7 to 10 days following the blossoming of the beech leaves are the most beautiful in the forest. The purple-blue of the bluebells combined with the transparent bright green of the young beech leaves give a magical effect. The sunlight still reaches the flowers through the leaf canopy, but a little less each day.” That’s not according to us, but to the people of the Hallerbos.
But wild bluebells are very fragile plants. When they are stepped on or damaged – when visitors leave the paths for example – they don’t come back the year after.
And because the bluebells now cause such a fuss, especially in the Hallerbos, this year restrictions have been put in place. The city of Halle has hired 50 stewards to make sure no one leaves the designated areas. Parking nearby is not possible anymore, and visitors will have to take a shuttle bus from Halle station.
We recommend to explore the pretty little flowers in another forest, that hasn’t been the victim of its own success. We spotted bluebells in the Kluisbos in Kluisbergen, a 30 minute drive from Ghent in the hilly region of the Flemish Ardennes. But you can also find them in the nearby Muziekbos in Ronse or the Raspaillebos in Geraardsbergen.
If you happen to stay in Ypres, a short drive to the Rodeberg or Kemmelberg in Heuvelland might prove worthwhile. The Nature & Forest Agency have made this very useful map for bluebell-spotters.
Now go and take lots of impressive Instagram shots – but don’t forget to stay on the paths!