One positive things about living in an area with cold, (shall we say, frigid) winters is that swell of relief when the fist spring bulbs bloom. In my yard, that is always the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). They usually sneak out of the ground in late February or early March. I don’t always notice them, because they don’t look like much at this point. It’s usually when I catch a tiny, clear white flash off to the side of the drive that I suddenly realize they are starting to bloom. Hallelujah!
Although they are tough enough to withstand the vagaries of snow, (they contain their own antifreeze), they melt quickly with the first sign of warmth.
Some interesting Snowdrop Facts:
How They Get Around
Snowdrops are very poor at producing seed, probably because there are so few pollinating insects around in late winter. Cultivated varieties can tend toward being sterile, as is the case with so many hybrids.
They spread by bulb division and a small clump will increase in size every year.
Ants will help spread whatever seed there is, which may explain how they make their way to far flung places in your yard.
Several sources site the genus name, Galanthus as meaning milk flower; from the Greek Gala, which means milk, and Anthos, which means flower. Although others say it is Latin, so I don’t know how reliable that information is.
Carl Linnaeus gave them the species name nivalis, which means snowy. We can trust Carl.
Snowdrop bulbs have a wide range. They are native to parts of Europe and Asia Minor and have since naturalized across North American and Asia.
There are only 18-20 different species of snowdrops, but more than 500 named varieties.
You can get snow drops in any color you want, as long as it’s white. Actually there are a few yellow varieties, but these are rare, pricy, and not found in too many garden.
The most common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, is called Garden Snowdrop.
Please don’t Eat the Snowdrops
The entire plant is poisonous to humans. Ingesting them can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The bulb contains an alkaloid, galanthamine, which is being studied and used in some countries to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
They had a reputation as being bad luck symbols, if brought indoors. I wish I knew why.
They are most often found naturally in deciduous forests, but somehow they make their way to meadows, river beds and our yards.
The flowers have a honey-like scent, which is stronger on sunny days.
Snowdrop flowers are formed within the bulb right after the existing flower fades. They lay dormant until next season. Enjoy them while you can.