Where have all the bluebells gone?
On a good year, the meadow adjacent to the Lock Ridge Furnace Park, in Alburtis, is awash in a sea of bright blue flowers – bluebells that visitors from far and near eagerly anticipate news of a spring bloom.
This year, as was the case last year, not so much. Instead of the brilliant blue hue, the meadow is pretty much green, with a here and there smattering of bluebells past their prime, and the annual scourge of yellow dandelion.
Where have all the bluebells gone? What happened to the magnificent blooms that drew so many fans in mid-April in 2008, 2013 and 2015?
Those who have followed the bluebells closely for years say it’s a combination of weather and human folly that have contributed to this year’s poor showing.
Kevin Shoemaker, historian and president of the Alburtis Lock Ridge Historical Society, and the administrator of the Lock Ridge Bluebells Facebook page, says that recent weather patterns have not been favorable.
“The bluebells do best with light intermittent showers and plenty of sunshine,” Shoemaker said. “We seem to be in a pattern of deluge showers that leave the meadows either flooded or pounded down by the force of the rain.”
“Additionally,” he said, “despite our signage and social network admonitions, people seem to just forge into the midst of the bluebell patch and trample the flowers into the dirt. To thrive season after season, the bluebells need to go through their natural life cycle, wilt and drop in place for the next year. When people ignore the paths through the patch and carelessly trample the flowers, those flowers die and cannot replenish in that spot.
“Years of this kind of behavior has taken its toll,” Shoemaker said. “These days everyone has a camera in their smartphone and so many, even professionals on a family photo shoot, seem to want to pose their loved ones and pets in the midst of the flowers. The paths allow for good picture-taking opportunities without trampling the beds.”
Sandi Robb, an Alburtis resident with a home adjacent to the park, echoes Shoemaker’s sentiments. “We had several storms last fall,” she said, “that caused the nearby Swabia Creek to flood into the bluebell meadows and literally wash the plants out of the ground. Those are plants that will not be there for the next bloom.”
Robb also had harsh words for those who ignore the signage and just wade in and trample the blooms. “I try to tell my children to think of the paths as somewhat like a railroad, and tell them we need to ‘stay on the tracks.’”
While this season and last have been disappointing, Shoemaker says he is not discouraged. “I see it coming back, and I’m already looking forward to next spring.” If it’s a good year, Shoemaker will post news of the bloom on the bluebells Facebook page, and the fans will come flocking back.