Snowdrops in bloom

Snowdrops in bloom

At this time of year I always keep watch for my Snowdrops, to bloom. Last year the first one bloomed on March 15th. That didn’t happen this year. I’m still waiting for them to show. This is actually far later than for most of the country because these harbingers of spring often bloom in February in more southerly places. Snowdrops botanical name, Galanthus, means milk flower in Greek, and the Common Snowdrop hardy to my area is G. nivalis, or covered in snow, so when my snow covered white flower emerges, icy fakes often do hang off them. The green markings on the inner flower add a bit of fay color to the otherwise all white, dainty flowers.

The plants are native to most of Europe from the south to the far north, but have spread widely around the world. This means the plants are very adaptable. While they like moist but well-drained soil in part shade, they survive in clay and can withstand full sun. They even grow under walnut trees which tend to poison the soil surrounding their trunk with juglone. Snowdrops are ephemeral, meaning the foliage sticks around long enough to build the bulb’s strength and then dies back before summer’s heat. While the little flowers give every snow-dejected spirit joy and hope, these are small, nearly insignificant flowers. Massive plantings are best for gardens, say at least twenty-five, but a hundred or more is better yet.

Most gardeners aren’t aware the bulbs are very poisonous, containing the alkaloids lycorine and galantamine. Lycorine is found in Amaryllidaceae family, that causes gastro intestinal distress. Galantamine on the other hand, has medical use in the treatment of mild Alzheimer’s. The bulbs also contain the glycoside scillaine, or scillitoxin, which affects the heart. So I guess the moral is beauty and hope come at a high price. No wonder deer don’t like them.

Update: 3/25 snow melted enough (not entirely gone!) to show my snowdrops blooming. Spring is here!