Admired for their subtle splendour, Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), are small flowering bulbs originating from Eastern Europe and Russia. Nowadays, this ornamental plant is naturalized around the world.
A precursor to spring, the snowdrop is one of the earliest flowers blooming in our gardens. A welcome sight to many after a long, cold winter, including me.
As an early flowering plant, snowdrops are an important early spring food source for pollinators.
According to lore, snowdrops were once held sacred as flowers representing virginity during medieval times, which may account for their naturalized state near convents and monastic buildings.
“A flow’r that first in this sweet garden smiled,
To virgins sacred, and the Snowdrop styled.” – Thomas Tickell
Peasants in some parts of England considered it unlucky to take a sprig into a house. Single flowers were harbingers of impending death, so I wonder if a bouquet would have been a safer bet?! In any case, this flower was viewed as a death-token by peasants who looked at it like it was a shrouded corpse. I suppose there’s no accounting for taste!
However, knowing that the whole plant is toxic, bulb included, perhaps some poor medieval soul took a bulb inside, ate it thinking it was a shallot, and promptly met their maker. My own speculation, but perhaps that’s how folklore surrounding all sorts of morbidity begins . In this case and others, we’ll not likely ever know!
In any case, right now, snowdrops are blooming in many parts of Europe and the British Isles. I won’t likely see them popping up in my garden for another six weeks or so, but until then, I’ll live vicariously, viewing photos on social media from people across the pond or in the lower U.S. states, where spring is ready to roll!
– Anticipation seems to be the mainstay of many a gardener!
2 thoughts on “The Subtle Splendour of Snowdrops in Springtime”
No snowdrops will dare to show their virginal heads here before April. They’re buried under 3 feet of snow!
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So true, Susanne! Same here in Minden, Ontario. My six week prediction was rather optimistic and it’s more likely to be mid-April before I see blooms. All in good time, but sooner rather than later, I hope!
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