People looking for picture perfect picnics are “destroying” some of Scotland’s most spectacular bluebell displays, conservationists have claimed.
Around half of all bluebells in the world are found in the UK, and carpets of the violet blue native flowers are about to hit their peak across Scotland.
But the charity Woodland Trust Scotland has warned that trampling and posing for photos on the displays is threatening the flowers for future years and spoiling the views for others.
The Trust has now issued advice, encouraging the public to “enjoy not destroy” Scotland’s delicate bluebells.
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.
“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.
“Social media and photo sharing sites may be compounding the problem in some locations. 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.
“Tramping spoils the bluebell experience for other visitors as the carpet of blue is broken up by flattened areas. But it also threatens the survival of the plants in the long term. They have a brief few weeks to replenish their store of energy from the sun.”
Issues have already been reported at sites including Kinclaven bluebell wood in Perthshire, although the Woodland Trust said there were problems at many of its sites. In one reported instance, a family waded into bluebells and threw a blanket over a substantial area to enjoy a picnic.
The Trust, which owns and cares for 60 sites covering more than 8000 hectares, has now issued advice to visitors to stay on formal permanent paths through bluebell sites, and not make new routes through the flowers or follow trails made by others.