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SNOWDROPS : Galanthus nivalis

Also see SNOWFLAKES which are different plants: index.asp?pageid=735927

The small shoots start appearing in the New Year and we look forward to the delicate white flowers towards the end of January and early February. This is still well ahead of spring, but encourages us to believe that will eventually come. Snowdrops grow in clumps within the natural mulch of the previous autumn, sometimes spreading out in cheerful white cover under trees or along banks.

Even if they appear before winter is abating, they reassure us that the weather will be becoming milder. However, to see a single snowdrop flower was once viewed as a sign of impending death and it was considered bad luck to take one into a house.

They are often considered a native UK species, but were introduced from mainland Europe possibly in the 16th century.

The Woodland Trust corrects us : Snowdrops lack petals and are composed of six white flower segments known as tepals (they look like petals). The inner three tepals are smaller and have a notch in the tip, with a green upturned ‘v’ pattern visible.

You may have noticed what appear to be snowdrops with green spots. The Woodland Trust warns us : Not to be confused with: summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum). Unlike snowdrop, this flower has a green spot marking on the end of each petal and the petals are of equal length; spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is also similar but all of its petals have a yellow-green mark on the end, which are absent on snowdrops. [Also see SNOWFLAKES : index.asp?pageid=735927].

The flower has a long association with the Christian festival of Candlemas and was often used to decorate churches during the celebration. This earned it the alternative name of Candlemas Bells.

The green spots are clearly seen against the white. BUT these are on the inner "petals". If you see green spots on the outer "petals" then this is not a snowdrop, but a snowflake plant. 

So we have learnt that snow drops differ from snowflakes in that the former has white outer petal-like tepals and that the latter have green spots on them. But turn over a snow drop and you will also see green on the inner tepals. Remember that the snowdrop is plain white on the outer tepals and the snowflake has spots on the outer tepals.

One of many clumps of snowdrops on the banks of the Leven in mid-February.

WOODLAND TRUST : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants/wild-flowers/snowdrop/

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