The shadow is winning over the light in the forest. And it is precisely that light, and the higher temperature over the past two months, that has given the spring bloomers the chance to get leaves and flowers, until the trees block the sunlight and keep it for themselves, as the crowns of the trees gradually grow denser and the leaves gradually become less transparent. Bluebells now only bloom in sunny places. The pollinated flowers no longer dangle like a bell, but straighten up as the ovary begins to swell, while the purple-blue petals wither. At the end of June, beginning of July, the black seeds will fall from the dried capsule. Many other plants are now blooming along the paths: bear’s garlic, sweetscented bedstraw, herb Paris, herb Robert, wood speedwell, greater stitchwort, yellow archangel, Solomon’s seal, lords-and-ladies and garlic mustard. Spiked rampion is ready to start blooming. On the leaves of limes, the horn-shaped galls of Eriophyes tiliae stand out. The time when the forest floor transformed into a beautiful intense purple-blue flower carpet, is over.
Not all trees are convinced that spring has started and are waiting to get leaves. The result is that the sun reaches the flowers here and there and creates a play of light and shadow over the bluebell carpet. When the sun disappears behind a cloud, the bluebells seem to change colour and the forest floor is filled with a soft pastel purple-blue colour under a transparent light green foliage. The heart-shaped leaves of Celandine can still be found in the edge along the paths, their yellow star-shaped flowers have finished blooming. In the meantime, other spring bloomers bring colour there: Herb Paris with its graceful flower, Wild Garlic, the overhanging flowering stem of the Common Solomon’s seal, Wood Speedwell with its small blue flowers, Garlic Mustard, Greater Stitchwort and Yellow Archangel. The young leaves of the red beech provide a stained glass window in all shades of orange, red and brown. The beech leaves are only a few days old and they are already covered by the horn-shaped galls of the beech gall midge.
Clouds and sunlight, which still penetrates the countless leaves, provide many shades of light blue and deep purple. Lighter and darker spots move across the sea of bluebells. Hoverflies and bumblebees have already been able to pollinate many bluebells. In some flowers the ovary is already clearly swelling. At the end of June, beginning of July, the black seeds will fall and hopefully can grow into new bluebells. But it takes about 4 to 5 years from a seed to a plant with flowers. In the first years, the small bulb can only form some leaves. The peak of flowering has passed, but for those who don’t have to come from too far, a visit to the forest remains worthwhile and a wonderful spring trip.
Yesterday the sun’s rays still cast tight shadows from the trunks over the purple-blue sea of flowers. Last night so many leaves have been added to the trees that the sun can hardly get through the foliage. The forest is now filled with a soft diffused light and two pastel colours: on the forest floor the soft blue-purple of the bluebells and above the transparent fresh green of the young beech leaves. The oaks are also almost completely in leaf. As in many past years, the trees took 8 to 10 days to completely fill the sky above the bluebells with leaves. This beautiful period with soft diffused light will last for a few more days, but it will soon darken in the forest and the intense purple-blue colour of the bluebells will turn a light blue-grey. The magical fairytale time in the forest is almost over.
If you want to enjoy the fairytale atmosphere on a sunny day, you should not wait long. The weather forecast is not looking good for early next week. Saturday April 23th is the annual bleubell jogging in the woods. Parking 11 (Houtveld) is only partially available. If you can, it is better to visit the forest during the week. The bluebells are now in full bloom. But high above the purple-blue sea of flowers, countless beech and oak leaves are appearing every day. The forest canopy is getting denser by the day and soon the sunlight will no longer reach the flowers. In the moist and calcareous valleys, the next spring bloomer is getting ready to to unroll its carpet of flowers: wild garlic. Like all other plants in the forest, it should not be picked, not even the leaves.
For over three weeks, the wood anemones have filled large parts of the forest with a white sea of flowers. Now they are wilting. The reserves to cover the forest floor with a sea of white flowers again next year, after the daffodils in March, have been replenished in their rhizomes. The leaves of the bluebells are doing the same preparation work for next year. But they put the reserve materials in a new bulb. At least where photographing visitors have not trampled the leaves. For the bluebells it becomes a race against time to flower and get pollinated. The oaks and beech trees are sprouting. Every day more young fresh green, now transparent, leaves appear on the trees. Exceptional this year is the wonderful bluebell scent that has been filling the forest for days. Together with the drumming woodpeckers and the singing birds, this makes a walk in the forest a wonderful, relaxing experience.
Due to the crowds, the Vlasmarktdreef will be closed to car traffic from tomorrow, April 20th, until Sunday evening, April 24th. Parking 2 (Bosmuseum) and Parking 8 (Achtdreven) will then no longer be accessible. So please use Parking 1 (Hogebermweg) or Parking 11 (Houtveld). A walk is marked from both car parks to the center of the forest.
The flowering stems of the bluebells extend above their leaves, which are increasingly slumped due to the weight of their length (and long cells with few partitions). As a result, there is now a deep blue-purple flower carpet in the forest. The bluebells continue to smell wonderful. Every day there are more tall beech trees with light green transparent leaves at the top of their crown. The oak leaves too are budding further. For the time being, the sunlight is still reaching the forest floor and flowers. It is wonderful to walk in the forest and experience the vibrant colours of spring.
Bluebells are delicate and easily damaged, especially if they’re trodden on. Damage can prevent the leaves from photosynthesizing, causing the plant to die back. Bluebells take many years to get established, so minor damage can have long-lasting impact. Help to look after the bluebells by sticking to the official pathways. By doing so, you do not compact the soil and new plants can germinate. In this way, the forest remains magically beautiful in the spring for future generations.
A lovely sunny day in the woods to enjoy spring. The bluebells gradually provide the purple-blue fairytale atmosphere. Here and there a tall beech tree gets leaves. Every day is now different in the forest. The wood anemones are still blooming, but will gradually begin to wilt. Every day there are more blooming hyacinths. The young leaves on the small thin beech trees already provide a fresh green play of light above the sea of flowers. When you come to the forest, behave like a respectful guest: stay on the official trails for hikers (so do not walk into the bridleway) and do not leave the paths to take pictures, put rubbish in the bin and keep Dogie on the leash. Enjoy your visit.