Galanthus nivalis

19 Feb

Galanthus nivalis flower (13/02/2011, London)

Galanthus nivalis flower (13/02/2011, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Moist, well drained

Flowering period: Spring

Eventual Height: 10cm

Eventual Spread: 10cm

Hardiness: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Galanthus nivalis is a winter flowering  bulbous perennial. Its strap like leaves are glaucous in colour. Each bulb will usually produce two lanceolate leaves and a single stalk with a single terminal flower. The small white flowers are scented of honey and have a tiny green inverted ‘v’ on the inner tepal.

Galanthus nivalis, commonly known as the Snowdrop or Common Snowdrop, is native to most of Europe. It was introduced to England in the 15th or 16th century and now has many cultivars. These cultivars are extremely difficult to distinguish between and experts must use a host of subtle differences in the identification of cultivars in the Galanthus genus. The bulbs, allegedly,  are sometimes mistaken for onions causing sever stomach upset.

The etymological root of the binomial name Galanthus is derived from the Greek gala meaning ‘milk’ and anthos meaning ‘flower’. Nivalis is from the Latin meaning snowy.

Galanthus nivalis (13/02/2011, London)

Galanthus nivalis (13/02/2011, London)

Galanthus nivalis is useful to the landscape architect as an early flowering white flowered bulb in climates where frost tolerance is required. They can be naturalised in areas of grass as these bulbs flower early and the leaves get a chance to photosynthesis before the grass starts its vigorous growth period during spring.

Ecologically, Galanthus nivalis is a valuable source of nectar and pollen during the winter months.

The Royal Horticultural Society have given Galanthus nivalis their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Galanthus nivalis prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Galanthus nivalis requires little maintenance. Groups of bulbs can be divided to bulk up plant numbers. This should be carried out during spring while the plant is still in leaf.

2 Responses to “Galanthus nivalis”


  1. Plant of the week: Hyacinthus orientalis « landscape architecture Blog - 21/03/2011

    […] in the Netherlands. The plant is poisonous if ingested, especially the bulb, which like the snowdrop can be mistaken for an onion. Hyacinthus orientalis (19/03/20110, […]

  2. Plant of the week: Narcissus ‘February Gold’ « landscape architecture Blog - 27/01/2012

    […] bulb, which has been known to cause dermatological conditions in florists. This bulb, like that of Galanthus nivalis, has been mistaken for onions leading to a number of poisoning […]

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