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Galanthus
Common Snowdrop
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Tribe: Galantheae
Genus: Galanthus
L.
Species

G. alpinus
G. angustifolius
G. cilicicus
G. fosteri
G. elwesii
G. gracilis
G. ikariae
G. koenenianus
G. krasnovii
G. lagodechianus
G. nivalis
G. peshmenii
G. platyphyllus
G. plicatus
G. reginae-olgae
G. rizehensis
G. transcaucasicus
G. trojanus
G. woronowii

Galanthus is a small genus of about 20 species in the family Amaryllidaceae commonly known as Snowdrops. Most flower in winter, before the Spring Equinox (21st March in the Northern Hemisphere) but certain species flower in late autumn and early spring.

Snowdrops are sometimes confused with their relatives, snowflakes, which are Leucojum and Acis species; see below.

Contents

Distribution

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 and European Turkey. It has been introduced and is widely naturalised elsewhere [1]. 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.[2]

Most other Galanthus species are from the eastern Mediterranean, though several are found in South Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.[3] Galanthus fosteri comes from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and maybe Israel.[4]

Conservation

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.[5]

Description

Common snowdrop

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.[6] 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.[7]

Notable species

  • 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[8]
  • 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.

Cultivars

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.[9] 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.

Propagation

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.

Similar genera

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.

Active substances

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.[10] 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.

Snowdrop gardens in the UK and Ireland

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).[11] Several gardens in England open during snowdrop season for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) (see their website for up-to-date details).

Notable snowdrop gardens include:[12]

England
Scotland
Ireland

Gallery

Snowdrops in literature and other media

  • 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[14]
  • "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).

See also

References

  1. ^ Davis, Aaron (1999). The genus Galanthus. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0881924318. 
  2. ^ Bishop, Matt; Aaron Davis, John Grimshaw (January 2002). SNOWDROPS A Monograph of Cultivated Galanthus. Griffin Press. pp. 17. ISBN 0954191609. 
  3. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp17–57
  4. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p40
  5. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp341–343
  6. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p7
  7. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) pp1–2
  8. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p17
  9. ^ Bishop, Davis & Grimshaw (2002) p329
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ "VisitScotland.com: Snowdrop Festival". http://white.visitscotland.com/snowdrops/. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  12. ^ "Great British Gardens: Snowdrops and Snowdrop Gardens 2007". http://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/snowdrops.htm. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  13. ^ "RHS Event Finder: Snowdrops at Primrose Hill". http://www.rhs.org.uk/rhseventfinder/EventFinder2.asp?ID=5012379. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  14. ^ Text of, and brief commentary on, Seamus Heaney's Mid-term Break

Further reading

  • 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

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

snowdrops in late winter

Translingual

Etymology

Latin from Ancient Greek γάλα (gala), milk) + ανθος (anthos), flower)

Proper noun

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Wikipedia

Galanthus

  1. a taxonomic genus, within family Amaryllidaceae - the snowdrops
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Wikispecies


Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Taxonavigation

Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales
Familia: Alliaceae
Tribus: Galantheae
Genus: Galanthus
Species: G. allenii - G. alpinus - G. angustifolius - G. cilicicus - G. elwesii - G. fosteri - G. gracilis - G. grandiflorus - G. ikariae - G. kemulariae - G. koenenianus - G. krasnovii - G. lagodechianus - G. nivalis - G. peshmenii - G. platyphyllus - G. plicatus - G. reginae-olgae - G. rizehensis - G. transcaucasicus - G. trojanus - G. woronowii
Nothospecies: G. ×valentinei

Name

Galanthus L., 1735.

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Schneeglöckchen
English: Snowdrop
Français: Perce-neige
Magyar: Hóvirág
Nederlands: Sneeuwklokje
日本語: マツユキソウ属 (スノードロップ属 , ガランツス属)
Svenska: Snödroppe
Türkçe: Kardelen

References

  • The International Plant Names Index Galanthus.
  • Linnaeus, Carl, 1735: Systema naturae, sive regna tria naturae systematice proposita per classes...
  • GBIF .
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Galanthus on Wikimedia Commons.







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