abundant sclerotium of Botrytis galanthina infects and damages rotting shoot of Galanthus
Foodplant / pathogen
Ditylenchus dipsaci infects and damages live, soft bulb of Galanthus
Foodplant / spot causer
pycnidium of Stagonosporopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Stagonosporopsis curtisii causes spots on red-brown, scorched shoot tip (young) of Galanthus
Foodplant / pathogen
subcuticular, apothecium-bearing stroma of Stromatinia gladioli infects and damages corm of Galanthus
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:73
Specimens with Barcodes:35
Species With Barcodes:28
Often referred to as the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis is the best-known and most widespread representative of a small genus of about 20 species. Snowdrops are among the first bulbs to bloom in spring and can form impressive carpets of white in areas where they are native or have been naturalised.
The generic name Galanthus, from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower), was given to the genus by Carl Linnaeus in 1735. He described Galanthus nivalis in his Species Plantarum published in 1753. The epithet "nivalis" means "of the snow", referring either to the snow-like flower or the plant's early flowering.
The common name snowdrop first appeared in the 1633 edition of John Gerard's Great Herbal (in the first edition (1597) he described it as the "Timely flowring Bulbus violet"). The derivation of the name is uncertain, although it may have come from the German word Schneetropfen, which was a type of earring popular around that time. Other British traditional common names include "February fairmaids", "dingle-dangle", "Candlemas bells", "Mary's tapers" and, in parts of Yorkshire,"snow piercers" (like the French name perce-neige).
Galanthus nivalis is widely grown in gardens, particularly in northern Europe, and is widely naturalised in woodlands in the regions where it is grown. It is, however, native to a large area of Europe, from Spain in the west, eastwards to the Ukraine. It is found in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia.
Although often thought of as a British native wild flower, or to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, it is now thought that it was probably introduced much later, perhaps around the early sixteenth century.
Galanthus nivalis grows to around 7–15 cm tall, flowering between January and April in the northern temperate zone (January–May in the wild).  They are perennial, herbaceous plants which grow from bulbs. Each bulb generally produces two linear, or very narrowly lanceolate, greyish-green leaves and an erect, leafless scape (flowering stalk), which bears at the top a pair of bract-like spathe valves joined by a papery membrane. From between them emerges a solitary, pendulous, bell-shaped white flower, held on a slender pedicel.
The flower consists of six tepals, also referred to as segments. The outer three are larger and more convex than the inner ones. The inner flower segments are usually marked on their outer surface with a green, or greenish-yellow, V or U-shaped mark (sometimes described as "bridge-shaped") over the small "sinus" (notch) at the tip of each tepal. The inner surface has a faint green mark covering all or most of it. Occasionally plants are found with green markings on the outer surface of the outer tepals.
The six long, pointed anthers open by pores or short slits. The ovary is three-celled, ripening into a three-celled capsule. Each whitish seed has a small, fleshy tail (the elaiosome) containing substances attractive to ants which distribute the seeds.  The leaves die back a few weeks after the flowers have faded.
Cultivation and propagation
The common double snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno', had appeared by 1703, when it was illustrated in The Duchess of Beaufort's Book. It spread (and was spread) rapidly through northern Europe (by vegetative means, as it sets no seed). With 3–5 outer segments and 12–21 inners, which are often misshapen, the flowers may be less attractive to the eye of the purist than single-flowered or neater double cultivars, but they are good value in the garden as the bulbs spread rapidly and the large flowers show up well.
There are numerous named cultivars of G. nivalis, single, semi-double, double and "poculiform" (meaning goblet or cup-shaped, this refers to flowers with inner segments that are almost the same shape and length as the outer ones). Apart from these traits they differ particularly in the size and markings of the flower and the period of flowering; other characteristics are less obvious to the untrained eye and are mainly of interest to "galanthophiles".
Some single-flowered cultivars
- Galanthus nivalis 'Anglesey Abbey' — green-leaved (rather than the usual greyish-green) and vigorous, with some flowers poculiform, some semi-poculiform and others normal. This cultivar (discovered at Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridgeshire, UK, the source of several good cultivars) was at first identified as belonging to G. lagodechianus, a rarely-grown green-leafed species, or a hybrid between it and G. nivalis, but has now been shown to be an unusual variant of G. nivalis
- G. nivalis 'Atkinsii' — Allen reported to the RHS 1891 Snowdrop Meeting: this is "second to none in size, form, quality and freedom of growth." "James Atkins of Painswick received it from a friend, presumably in the 1860s ... He gave this snowdrop to Canon Ellacombe" of Bitton who widely distributed it.
- G. nivalis 'Blonde Inge' — mark on inner segments is yellow, sometimes rather bronzy or "tarnished"-looking, although the ovary is green (unlike most "yellow" snowdrops). Discovered near Cologne, Germany, in 1977
- G. nivalis Poculiformis Group — inner segments are almost same length and shape as outer ones, usually unmarked and without a "sinus" (notch); includes such cultivars as 'Sandhill Gate'
- G. nivalis Sandersii Group — ovary and marks on inner segments are yellow instead of green; leaves and flower-stalks may also be slightly yellowish; includes those plants known as 'Flavescens' , 'Lutescens' and 'Sandersii', and more recent cultivars such as 'Ray Cobb' and 'Savill Gold'. 'Sandersii' was the first to be named (as G. nivalis var. sandersii) in 1877; it was found near Belford, Northumberland; 'Flavescens', a taller, finer clone, was found in a cottage garden in Whittingham, Northumberland in 1889 (and named G. flavescens). Yellow-flowered snowdrops are relatively frequent in woodlands in Northumberland but seem to be decreasing, perhaps due to illegal collecting. They tend to be less vigorous than normal G. nivalis and may prove difficult to grow
- G. nivalis Scharlockii Group — "donkey's ears snowdrops" have an elongated, foliose spathe that is split down the centre, resembling upright ears. The Group is very variable in height. The original 'Scharlockii' was found in the Nahe valley, Germany, and named in 1868; it has green markings on its outer segments. Seedlings have been raised from it that have the split spathe but no green outer markings, or that have the markings but a normal spathe. Double-flowered seedlings have also arisen
- G. nivalis 'Snow White's Gnome' — at less than 5 cm tall in flower, this is possibly the world's smallest snowdrop cultivar. Found in the Czech Republic in 1990, it has relatively long, upright spathes, around half the height of the entire flowering shoot. The flowers are albino (with no markings at all), or almost so, with only two tiny dots per inner segment
- G. nivalis 'Viridapice' — variable in size and vigour (some larger plants have been shown to be triploid), the flowers have green-tipped outer segments; the spathe may be normal, or elongated and inflated or foliose; found in northern Holland by JMC Hoog of the famous Dutch bulb company; painted by EA Bowles in 1916
- G. nivalis 'Virescens' — "the original green snowdrop" (dating from with large areas of pale green covering roughly two-thirds of the outer segments (nearest the ovary, not extending to the tips). Narrow flowers, with rather flattened outer segments, flaring outward at the tips. Late flowering, often into April
- G. nivalis 'Warei' — a very sturdy triploid, with green-tipped outer segments, similar to 'Viridapice' but larger, with enormous foliose spathes up to 11 cm long. Originated in 1886 among some bulbs of G. nivalis 'Scharlockii'
Some double-flowered cultivars
- G. nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Blewbury Tart' — curious, untidy, upward- or outward-facing flowers with dark green markings in the centre; found in Blewbury, UK, in 1975
- G. nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Doncaster's Double Scharlock' — a loose double, with three to six outers, strongly tipped with green, and a long, upright split spathe (the two parts of which sometimes cross over each other); named after plantswoman Amy Doncaster, who grew it as 'Scharlockii Flore Pleno', thinking that it must be the same as the double raised from seed of 'Scharlockii' by nurseryman James Allen early in the 20th century, but a contemporary drawing of the original plant shows it to have been less striking than this one
- G. nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno' — the most common double snowdrop, having three to five unmarked outer segments surrounding rosettes of numerous green-marked inner segments, usually of uneven length, giving a quite untidy appearance
- G. nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Lady Elphinstone' — a version of 'Flore Pleno' with yellow colouring inside the flowers instead of green; may revert back to the normal 'Flore Pleno' or vary from year to year; found in Cheshire, UK, in the late 19th century
- G. nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Walrus' — a curious double, its outers resemble narrow, tubular, greenish "tusks" up to 2.5 cm long, the inners usually form a neat, widely splayed rosette; the long foliose spathe may sometimes split, as in 'Scharlockii'; selected at Maidwell, Northamptonshire in the 1960s
- "Spiky doubles" — occasionally found among normal "wild" G. nivalis are bulbs that produce upward-facing tufts of narrow, quill-like segments, looking like a white, off-white, greenish shuttlecock or shaving brush. 'Boyd's Double', the first of these to be documented (found prior to 1905), is still the darkest green in colour; others include 'Cockatoo', 'Ermine Spiky' and 'Irish Green'
In the UK and Ireland, many gardens open specially in February for visitors to admire the flowers. These displays may attract large numbers of sightseers. Some feature extensive displays of naturalised G. nivalis; others have more specialised collections of many species, forms and cultivars.
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, pp. 10,18 (Introduction)
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, p. ix (Introduction)
- ^ Mabey, Richard (1996). Flora Britannica. London: Sinclair-Stevenson. p. 421. ISBN 1-85619-377-2.
- ^ Mabey 1996, p. 425
- ^ a b Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, p. 17
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, p. 7
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, pp. 76–112
- ^ Page 65 of Stern F C, Snowdrops and Snowflakes – A study of the Genera Galanthus and Leucojum, The Royal Horticultural Society, 1956
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw 2002, pp. 112–126
- Bishop, Matt; Davis, Aaron P.; Grimshaw, John (January 2002). Snowdrops: A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus. Griffin Press. ISBN 0954191609.
- Davis, Aaron P.; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1999). The genus Galanthus. A Botanical magazine monograph. Timber Press. ISBN 9780881924312. http://books.google.com/books?id=xqBkQgAACAAJ.
- Gvaladze GE (1983). "Ultrastructural study of Embryo Sac of Galanthus nivalis L.". In Erdelská O. Fertilization and embryogenesis in ovulated plants. VII. International Cytoembryological Symposium, High Tatra (Račkova dolina), June 14-17, 1982. Bratislava: Centre of Biological and Ecological Sciences, Institute of Experimental Biology and Ecology, Slovak Academy of Sciences. OCLC 15866997.
- Gvaladze GE, Akhalkatsi MSh, Ultrastructure of autumn and spring Embryo Sac of Galanthus nivalis L. in Annales Scientifiques de l'Universite de Reims Champagne-Ardenne et de l'A.R.E.R.S., 1988, Numero 23
- Plaitakis A, Duvoisin RC (March 1983). "Homer's moly identified as Galanthus nivalis L.: physiologic antidote to stramonium poisoning". Clin Neuropharmacol 6 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1097/00002826-198303000-00001. PMID 6342763.
- Stern F C, Snowdrops and Snowflakes – A study of the Genera Galanthus and Leucojum, The Royal Horticultural Society, 1956, 128 pages in hardback
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Galanthus (Snowdrop; Greek gála "milk", ánthos "flower") is a small genus of about 20 species of bulbous herbaceous plants in the Amaryllis family, subfamily Amaryllidoideae. Most flower in winter, before the vernal equinox (21 March in the Northern Hemisphere), but certain species flower in early spring and late autumn.
Galanthus nivalis is the best-known and most widespread representative of the genus Galanthus. It is native to a large area of Europe, stretching from the Pyrenees in the west, through France and Germany to Poland in the north, Italy, Northern Greece, Ukraine, and European Turkey. It has been introduced and is widely naturalised elsewhere. Although it is often thought of as a British native wild flower, or to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, it was probably introduced around the early sixteenth century and is currently not a protected species in the UK.
Most other Galanthus species are from the eastern Mediterranean, though several are found in southern Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Galanthus fosteri comes from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and maybe Israel.
Some snowdrop species are threatened in their wild habitats, and in most countries it is now illegal to collect bulbs from the wild. Under CITES regulations, international trade in any quantity of Galanthus, whether bulbs, live plants or even dead ones, is illegal without a CITES permit. This applies to hybrids and named cultivars as well as species. CITES does, however, allow a limited trade in wild-collected bulbs of just three species (G. nivalis, G, elwesii and G. woronowii) from Turkey and Georgia.
All species of Galanthus are perennial, herbaceous plants which grow from bulbs. Each bulb generally produces just two or three linear leaves and an erect, leafless scape (flowering stalk), which bears at the top a pair of bract-like spathe valves joined by a papery membrane. From between them emerges a solitary, pendulous, bell-shaped white flower, held on a slender pedicel. The flower has no petals: it consists of six tepals, the outer three being larger and more convex than the inner series. The six anthers open by pores or short slits. The ovary is three-celled, ripening into a three-celled capsule. Each whitish seed has a small, fleshy tail (elaiosome) containing substances attractive to ants which distribute the seeds. The leaves die back a few weeks after the flowers have faded.
The inner flower segments are usually marked with a green, or greenish-yellow, bridge-shaped mark over the small "sinus" (notch) at the tip of each tepal.
An important feature which helps to distinguish between species (and to help to determine the parentage of hybrids) is their "vernation" (the arrangement of the emerging leaves relative to each other). This can be "applanate", "supervolute" or "explicative". In applanate vernation the two leaf blades are pressed flat to each other within the bud and as they emerge; explicative leaves are also pressed flat against each other, but the edges of the leaves are folded back or sometimes rolled; in supervolute plants one leaf is tightly clasped around the other within the bud and generally remains at the point where the leaves emerge from the soil.
Cultivation and uses
Propagation is by offset bulbs, either by careful division of clumps in full growth ("in the green"), or removed when the plants are dormant, immediately after the leaves have withered; or by seeds sown either when ripe, or in spring. Professional growers and keen amateurs also use such methods as "twin-scaling" to increase the stock of choice cultivars quickly.
It was suggested by Duvoisin in 1983 that the mysterious magical herb moly that appears in Homer's Odyssey is actually snowdrop. An active substance in snowdrop is called galantamine, which, as anticholinesterase, could have acted as an antidote to Circe's poisons. Galantamine (or galanthamine) can be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, though it is not a cure; the substance also occurs naturally in daffodils and other narcissi.
Celebrated as a sign of spring, snowdrops can form impressive carpets of white in areas where they are native or have been naturalised. These displays may attract large numbers of sightseers. Several gardens open specially in February for visitors to admire the flowers. Sixty gardens took part in Scotland's first Snowdrop Festival (1 Feb–11 March 2007). Several gardens in England open during snowdrop season for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) (see their website for up-to-date details).
- Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridgeshire
- Bank Hall, Bretherton, Lancashire
- Benington Lordship, Hertfordshire
- Brandy Mount, New Alresford, Hampshire (NCCPG National Plant Collection of Snowdrops) (NGS)
- Chippenham Park, Newmarket, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
- Colesbourne Park, Gloucestershire
- East Lambrook Manor, Somerset (NGS)
- Easton Lodge, near Little Easton, Essex
- Easton Walled Gardens, near Grantham, Lincolnshire
- Felley Priory, Nottinghamshire
- Hanwell Community Observatory, Banbury, Oxfordshire
- Hodsock Priory, Nottinghamshire
- Ickworth House, Park and Gardens, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
- Kingston Lacey, Dorset
- Moggerhanger House, Bedfordshire
- Painswick Rococo Gardens, Gloucestershire
- Pembury House, Clayton, West Sussex (NGS)
- Rodmarton Manor, Gloucestershire
- Walsingham, Norfolk
- Welford Park, Newbury, Berkshire
- Cambo Estate, Fife, Scotland
- Finlaystone, Renfrewshire, Scotland
- Gagie House, By Dundee, Scotland www.gagie.com
- Mark Smyth's Garden in Antrim
- Primrose Hill, Lucan, County Dublin, Ireland 
- Altamont Garden,Tullow,County Carlow 
Notable species include:
- Common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, grows to around 7–15 cm tall, flowering between January and April in the northern temperate zone (January–May in the wild). Applanate vernation
- Crimean snowdrop, Galanthus plicatus, 30 cm tall, flowering January/March, white flowers, with broad leaves folded back at the edges (explicative vernation)
- Giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, a native of the Levant, 23 cm tall, flowering January/February, with large flowers, the three inner segments of which often have a much larger and more conspicuous green blotch (or blotches) than the more common kinds; supervolute vernation
- Galanthus reginae-olgae, from Greece and Sicily, is quite similar in appearance to G. nivalis, but flowers in autumn before the leaves appear. The leaves, which appear in the spring, have a characteristic white stripe on their upper side; applanate vernation
- subsp. vernalis, from Sicily, northern Greece and the south of former Yugoslavia, blooms at the end of the winter with developed young leaves and is thus easily confused with G. nivalis.
flowers in the fall
leaves in the winter
close-up of the leaves
There are numerous single- and double-flowered cultivars of Galanthus nivalis, and also of several other Galanthus species, particularly G. plicatus and G. elwesii. There are also many hybrids between these and other species (there are more than 500 cultivars described in Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw's book, plus lists of many cultivars that have now been lost, and others not seen by the authors). They differ particularly in the size, shape and markings of the flower, the period of flowering, and other characteristics, mainly of interest to the keen (even fanatical) snowdrop collectors, known as "galanthophiles", who hold meetings where the scarcer cultivars change hands. Double-flowered cultivars and forms, such as the extremely common Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno', may be less attractive to some people but they can have greater visual impact in a garden setting.
A list of Irish cultivars can be found here 
Snowdrops are sometimes confused with their relatives, snowflakes, Leucojum and Acis species. Leucojums are much larger and flower in spring (or early summer, depending on the species), with all six tepals in the flower being the same size, though it should be noted that some "poculiform" (goblet- or cup-shaped) Galanthus can have inner segments similar in shape and length to the outer ones.
Snowdrop, probably G. elwesii
- William Wordsworth, the Two-Part Ballad: "I began / My story early, feeling, as I fear, / The weakness of a human love for days / Disowned by memory, ere the birth of spring / Planting my snowdrops among winter snows" (ll. 445-59).
- Snowdrops feature in Seamus Heaney's poem Mid-term Break in the context of mourning a dead infant
- "Snowdrop" is the subtitle of P. I. Tchaikovsky's piano piece, "April," in the piano cycle "The Seasons". The cycle contains 12 pieces, each is given the name of the month and a characteristic subtitle.
- In Neil Gaiman's novel Stardust, Dunstan Thorn and subsequently his son Tristran carry a glass snowdrop that chimes when held. The flower has a very small, but pivotal role in the story
- In the anime film Twelve Months (Sekai meisaku dowa mori wa ikiteiru in Japan), a greedy queen decrees that a basket of gold coins shall be rewarded to anyone who can bring her galanthus flowers in the dead of winter. A young girl named Anya is sent out during a snow storm by her cruel stepmother and find the spirits of the 12 months of the year, who take pity on her and not only save her from freezing to death, but make it possible for her to gather the flowers even in winter
- In the manga "Snow Drop" by Choi kyung-ah, Snow Drop was the name of the book that Yo So-Na's mother wrote. The name of the four characters in the manga was taken from that book: So-na, Hae-gi, Ko-mo, Gae-Ri. In this manga, snowdrop represented hope and warmth, because of the legend it carries in Korea
- "Snowdrops" was the nickname that the British people gave during the Second World War to the military police of the United States Army (who were stationed in the UK preparatory to the invasion of the continent) because they wore a white helmet, gloves, gaiters, and Sam Browne belt against their olive drab uniform
- In Jacqueline Carey's series of novels set in Terre d'Ange, snowdrops are distilled to create a beverage called joie that is drunk on the Longest Night (New Year's Eve). In Naamah's Kiss, one of the characters makes a tonic from snowdrops that acts as an aphrodisiac, and the protagonist Moirin takes snowdrops from Terre d'Ange (based on France) and plants them in a mountain in Ch'in (based on China).
- The short story The Snowdrop by Hans Christian Andersen follows the fate of a snowdrop from a bulb striving towards the light to a picked flower placed in a book of poetry. The poet, Ambrosius Stub, is compared to the flower—as a summer gauk (fool), born before his time.
- In the anime and manga series, "Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica," the White Series' protagonist is named "Snow Drop"
- ^ Stevens, P.F. (2001 onwards), Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Amaryllidoideae, http://www.mobot.org/mobot/research/apweb/orders/asparagalesweb.htm#AllAma
- ^ Davis, Aaron (1999). The genus Galanthus. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0881924318.
- ^ Bishop, Matt; Aaron Davis, John Grimshaw (January 2002). SNOWDROPS A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus. Griffin Press. pp. 17. ISBN 0954191609.
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp17–57
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p40
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp341–343
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p7
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp1–2
- ^ Plaitakis A, Duvoisin RC, Homer's moly identified as Galanthus nivalis L.: physiologic antidote to stramonium poisoning. Clin Neuropharmacol. 1983 Mar; 6(1):1-5. Abstract
- ^ "VisitScotland.com: Snowdrop Festival". Archived from the original on 3 March 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070303112955/http://white.visitscotland.com/snowdrops/. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
- ^ "Great British Gardens: Snowdrops and Snowdrop Gardens 2007". http://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/snowdrops.htm. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
- ^ "RHS Event Finder: Snowdrops at Primrose Hill". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070829195329/http://www.rhs.org.uk/rhseventfinder/EventFinder2.asp?ID=5012379. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p17
- ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p329
- ^ Text of, and brief commentary on, Seamus Heaney's Mid-term Break
- Aaron P Davis, The Genus Galanthus, A Botanical Magazine Monograph. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon (in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) ISBN 0-88192-431-8
- Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis, John Grimshaw, SNOWDROPS A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus, Griffin Press, January 2002 (ISBN 0-9541916-0-9)
- Gvaladze GE, Ultrastructural study of Embryo Sac of Galanthus nivalis L. in: Fertilization and embryogenesis, Bratislava, 1983
- Gvaladze GE, Akhalkatsi MSh, Ultrastructure of autumn and spring Embryo Sac of Galanthus nivalis L. in Annales Scientifiques de l'Universite de Reims Champagne-Ardenne et de l'A.R.E.R.S., 1988, Numero 23
- Stern F C, Snowdrops and Snowflakes – A study of the Genera Galanthus and Leucojum, The Royal Horticultural Society, 1956
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