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Snowdrop

Galanthus nivalis

Months

Season

Habitat

The bobbing white blooms of snowdrops fluttering on the road verge or carpeting the woodland floor put a spring in the step of us all during the bitter winter months.

Their early appearance after a dark winter make them a firm favourite with nature lovers and wildflower watchers across the country. A sign that spring is on its way!

How to spot it

Its slim green leaves and bobbing white petals are quite iconic at a time of year when little else flowers.

Snowdrops are able to survive the cold winter months and flower so early, because they grow from bulbs.

Where it grows

Areas with damp soil, such as moist woodland and riverbanks.

Best time to see snowdrops

Your best chance at seeing snowdrops is from January to March. However, you might spot it in flower as early as October!

The species has long been associated with our cold winter months – the Latin name, Galanthus nivalis, translates as ‘milk flower of the snow.’

Are snowdrops a native species?

Although considered a native species, snowdrops are recent arrivals. Its first known cultivation as a garden plant was in 1597, and was then first recorded in the wild in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in 1778.

What do snowdrops symbolise?

In the Language of Flowers snowdrops symbolise chastity, consolation, death, friendship in adversity, hope and purity.

Discover the ingenious ways Snowdrops have adapted to deal with harsh winters as Adam Shaw speaks to Plantlife Senior Ecologist Sarah Shuttleworth.

Things you might not know

  • Did you know pollinators love snowdrops too? Snowdrops produce seeds which are spread by early emerging queen bumblebees on warm, dry days.
  • Christians dedicate this wildflower to the Virgin Mary. On Candlemas Day, 2 February, snowdrops were once scattered in place of her image on the altar.
  • Regional names include Candlemass Bells, Mary’s Taper, Snow Piercer, February Fairmaids and Dingle-dangle, which point to the snowdrops’ appearance in the depths of winter.
  • In traditional medicine, snowdrops were used to treat headaches and as a painkiller. In modern medicine, a naturally occurring substance within the plant, called galantamine, is used to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the bulbs themselves are poisonous to humans and can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting if eaten. This perhaps led to the superstition that a single Snowdrop bloom in a house can bring death.

Other Species

Blackthorn
Trailing cluster of white blossom of the Blackthorn

Blackthorn

Prunus spinosa

Fingered Speedwell
Fingered Speedwell flower with blue petals in its bracts.

Fingered Speedwell

Veronica triphyllos

Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy

Glechoma hederacea