A snowdrop miscellany

Galanniv01 (205K)

Galanthus nivalis near Hurstbourne Priors. ©Martin Rand 2008

The great majority of Snowdrops naturalised in the wild are of the species Galanthus nivalis. It has narrow, unfolded leaves that are more or less parallel sided then taper towards the tip. Flowers are usually relatively small, with quite narrow outer tepals.

There are many cultivated forms including a double (flore pleno) plant that is sometimes as common as the single.

Galannivfp02 (280K)

Galanthus nivalis forma pleniflorus, Empshott churchyard. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galannivfp04 (159K)

Galanthus nivalis forma pleniflorus, Empshott churchyard. ©Martin Rand 2008

The spathe (the membranous hood around the flower bud) is quite narrow with a broad membranous band and two narrow green bands. Sell and Murrell's description of the spathe (Flora of Great Britain and Ireland, vol.5) is incorrect in this detail.

Galanniv02 (190K)

Galanthus nivalis near Hurstbourne Priors. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanpli01 (284K)

Galanthus plicatus, woodland belt near Hurstbourne Priors. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanthus plicatus is a distinctive Snowdrop with broad leaves, widening towards the tip, and each with two pleats running the length of the leaf. The margins of the leaves are rolled back, especially in young leaves and towards the bases. Whereas G. nivalis leaves are usually uniformly glaucous (waxy bluish-green), this species shows more dark mid-green, with a paler band on the upper surface along the midrib. The flowers are large, and rather 'blobby' in bud.

The spathe of G. plicatus is broad, with a narrow membranous centre and two broad green margins that may be rolled. The stiffness of the spathe means that flowers can remain upright in bud for a long time.

Galanpli02 (173K)

Galanthus plicatus, woodland belt near Hurstbourne Priors. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanplixniv01 (234K)

Galanthus plicatus x nivalis, woodland belt near Hurstbourne Priors. ©Martin Rand 2008

These two species hybridise, and the hybrid is intermediate in all characters.

This cultivar appears to have some Galanthus plicatus in its ancestry.

Galancv01 (201K)

Galanthus cv., Hurstbourne Priors churchyard. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanelw01 (191K)

Galanthus elwesii, Ashe churchyard. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanthus elwesii is another species with a very broad leaf, widening towards the tip and entirely glaucous. Its margins roll inwards, not backwards, and it has a pronounced hood at the tip. It is an early flowerer, often opening in December.

It is also characterised by having two green patches on the outer face of the inner tepals, one at the base and one at the apex. A related, less robust form with a spot at the apex only is given by Stace (New Flora of the British Isles, 2nd edn.) as a separate species Galanthus caucasicus, but Sell and Murrell reduce it to a variety G. elwesii var. monostictus.

Galanelw02 (131K)

Galanthus elwesii, Ashe churchyard. ©Martin Rand 2008

Galanwor01 (225K)

Galanthus woronowii, lane verge at East Worldham. ©Martin Rand 2008

With an even broader leaf that is characteristically reflexed and hooded at the tip, the robust species Galanthus woronowii (also known as G. ikariae and G. latifolius) is one of the rarer escapes.

It has a pure green shiny leaf and a narrow spathe.

Galanwor02 (256K)

Galanthus woronowii, Hillier Gardens, Ampfield. ©Martin Rand 2008