Galanthus

Galanthus is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae family with about 20 species distributed from Europe and western Asia to the Caspian Sea. It was the subject of the topic of the week in February 2004. Seeds should be planted straight away in May. Very lightly on the surface covered by compost peat etc and kept slightly humid throughout the summer. The plantlets appear at end of December (at the same time as the bulbs). Sowing later in the summer has resulted in the past in very mediocre results (Lauw de Jager). The Introduction was posted by John Grimshaw. Reference books are Snowdrops, by Matt Bishop, Aaron Davis and John Grimshaw, published by the Griffin Press and The Genus Galanthus by A.P. Davis from the Royal Botanical Garden, Kew, and Timber Press.


Galanthus × allenii Baker is considered to be a wild hybrid between Galanthus alpinus and Galanthus woronowii found in the Caucasus. It has broad grey green leaves. The flowers are almond scented. The outer segments are broadly ovate and the inner three segments are marked with green near the apex only. Photos by John Lonsdale.

Galanthus × allenii, John LonsdaleGalanthus × allenii, John LonsdaleGalanthus × allenii, John Lonsdale

Galanthus alpinus is found in the Caucasus and Transcaucasus. Galanthus caucasicus commonly the Caucasian snowdrop is synonymous with Galanthus alpinus var. alpinus. It is often confused with Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus which is more common in the bulb trade. Photos of G. alpinus var alpinus taken in the Republic of Georgia by David Kikodze.

Galanthus alpinus var. alpinus, photo by David KikodzeGalanthus alpinus var. alpinus, photo by David Kikodze

Galanthus cilicicus Baker syn. Galanthus nivalis subsp. cilicicus (Baker) Gottl.-Tann. is native to southern Turkey. It flowers early in winter. Photos from John Lonsdale and Hans Joschko.

Galanthus cilicicus, John LonsdaleGalanthus cilicicus, John LonsdaleGalanthus cilicicus, Hans JoschkoGalanthus cilicicus, Hans Joschko

Galanthus elwesii is native to Turkey. The first photo from Arnold Trachtenberg and the second from Jay Yourch. The third photo is of a poculiform flower, that has no green marks, and all petals the same length. It appears to be male-sterile, as the anthers are a bit deformed and don't produce pollen. It flowers later than most of my elwesii, just opening in mid-February. It came from my grandparents' 5 acres of woodland in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. They began the garden about 85 years ago, and snowdrops have been seeding themselves ever since. Most are G. elwesii, as it thrives in our dry summers. The fourth photo shows a seedpod which contained 22 seeds ripened in mid-April from a normal flower that bloomed in an unheated greenhouse at the end of January. The seeds look as though they have begun germinating, but instead, each has an elaiosome which attracts ants which then disperse the seeds. Third and fourth photos by Diane Whitehead.

Galanthus elwesii, photo by Arnold TrachtenbergGalanthus elwesii, photo by Jay YourchGalanthus elwesii (poculiform), Diane Whiteheadseedpod and seeds, Diane Whitehead

Photos by David Pilling show Galanthus elwesii (left) compared with Galanthus nivalis (right) and close-ups of flowers.

Galanthus elwesii and nivalis, David PillingGalanthus elwesii, David PillingGalanthus elwesii, David Pilling

Galanthus elwesii 'Jonathan' There is much interest in non-white snowdrops, if only because of the large sums of money for which such bulbs change hands. See this PBS list discussion to learn more. Photographs of 'Jonathan', an apricot flushed Galanthus elwesii, by Mark Brown.

Galanthus elwesii 'Jonathan', Mark BrownGalanthus elwesii 'Jonathan', Mark Brown

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus is native to Turkey. Photos by Roland and Gemma

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and GemmaGalanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and GemmaGalanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and GemmaGalanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and GemmaGalanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and GemmaGalanthus elwesii var. monostictus, Roland and Gemma

Galanthus ikariae is native to the Aegean Islands off the coast of Greece. It's small, even for a snowdrop, with arching, glossy green foliage. Photo taken March 2007 by Jay Yourch.

Galanthus ikariae, Jay Yourch

Galanthus krasnovii is native to the Caucasus. These bulbs I found in-between Galanthus worronowii bulbs imported from Turkey. They are naturalising now in my garden. Photos taken by Roland and Gemma.

Galanthus krasnovii, Roland and GemmaGalanthus krasnovii, Roland and GemmaGalanthus krasnovii, Roland and Gemma

Galanthus nivalis is the standard snowdrop, found growing at the base of hedgerows and in woods, loved as the first flower of the year and a harbinger of better weather. Native to central Europe but naturalised in many places e.g. England. Appropriately nivalis means 'of the snow'. The seed of this species has a hook shaped elaiosome (see the photo below) attractive to ants, which may encourage them to take the seed away and bury it; this is one explanation why clumps of Galanthus nivalis appear where they have not been planted; it also provides a clue to the best way to grow the seeds. Photos by David Pilling.

Galanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David Pilling

Time lapse by David Pilling of Galanthus nivalis, 31st January 2013.

Time lapse by David Pilling of Galanthus nivalis, Tuesday 4th February 2014, 12:56 to 17:28, flowers close as the earth rotates and the sunlight fades.

Photo 4 shows shoots at the end of November in North West England; photo 5 is a 7 cm pot of first year seedlings; photo 6 is a bulb.

Galanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis, David PillingGalanthus nivalis shoots, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seedling, David PillingGalanthus nivalis bulb, David Pilling

Photo 1 is a seed pod forming. Photo 2 taken at the end of May shows that seed pods end up resting on the ground, typically under the leaves; note those in the photo are still attached to the plant and growing. Photo 3 taken a couple of weeks later shows that after the stems have withered away the seed pods are still green. Eventually as in photo 4, the seed pod turns yellow and spills out ripe seed; this seed pod has been cut open photo 5 shows two opening naturally; the grid is 10 mm.

Galanthus nivalis seed pod, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed pods, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed pods, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed and pod, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed pods, David Pilling

Time lapse video by David Pilling taken between 20:27 on 14th July 2013 and 03:15 on the 16th July 2013 of Galanthus nivalis seed pods opening. The seed pods are indoors under LED lighting, with a temperature around 75-80 °F. It is quite late in the year for these to be intact. Notice how rapidly the pods decay once they have opened. Kept in a packet you'd get a dollop of nasty brown gloop.

Photos of seed, in the first an elaiosome is visible, a sweet reward to ants for distributing the seed. Seed is ephemeral and should be sown promptly. Photo 2 shows seed that has been moist stored for a few weeks; the elaiosome has rotted away. Seed was kept moist at inside room temperature until December 2013, when it was exposed to external temperatures, where some germinated immediately, photo 3 shows progress in mid February 2014.

Galanthus nivalis seed, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed 6th August 2013, David PillingGalanthus nivalis seed 18th February 2014, David Pilling

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' has double flowers with inner segments irregular and untidy to regular and neat. This form spreads by prolific offsets. This cultivar has been given the Award of Garden Merit from the British Royal Horticultural Society. Photos by David Pilling.

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno', David Pilling

The first two photos show the double (left) and single versions. From above when the flowers are closed it is possible to distinguish doubles because they can't close as much and so the flower is fatter. Other differences are in the marking and the ovary at the top of the flower. Look at the third photo and see if you can spot the doubles - selecting the high resolution version of the photo will show them circled.

Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' left and ordinary version right, David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' left and ordinary version right, David PillingGalanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' and ordinary version, David Pilling

Galanthus nivalis 'Sandersii' is a cultivar with yellow marks on the inner segments instead of green. Photo by John Lonsdale.

Galanthus nivalis 'Sandersii', John Lonsdale

Galanthus 'Otto Fauser' is an Australian raised snowdrop named for a highly esteemed plantsman in this country. Photo in July by Lyn Edwards, Canberra Australia.

Galanthus 'Otto Fauser', Lyn Edwards

Galanthus peshmenii grows in scrub and rocky places in southwest Turkey and Greece. It flowers in the fall. First photo by John Lonsdale. Second photo by Jane McGary. Third and fourth photos by Oron Peri show G. peshmenii in the wild in southwestern Turkey, where it favors very well drained sites such as steep banks in dappled shade. A large colony was even seen in the duff that had collected on top of a large boulder.

Galanthus peshmenii, photo by John LonsdaleGalanthus peshmenii in the wild in southwestern Turkey. Photo by Jane McGary.Galanthus peshmenii, south west Turkey, Oron PeriGalanthus peshmenii, south west Turkey, Oron Peri

Galanthus plicatus 'Wendy's Gold' is a cultivar with yellow markings. Photo by John Lonsdale.

Galanthus plicatus 'Wendy's Gold', , John Lonsdale

Galanthus reginae-olgae is similar to Galanthus nivalis. It has variants that bloom from autumn to spring and is reasonably hardy. It is a native of dryish woodland at low altitudes. Photos by John Lonsdale.

Galanthus reginae-olgae, John LonsdaleGalanthus reginae-olgae, John LonsdaleGalanthus reginae-olgae, John Lonsdale

Galanthus transcaucasicus, is distributed from S. & E. Transcaucasus to N. Iran. Photos by Hans Joschko who reports his plants are 6-8 cm. high.

Galanthus transcaucasicus, Hans JoschkoGalanthus transcaucasicus, Hans JoschkoGalanthus transcaucasicus, Hans Joschko

Galanthus woronowii, named for Russian plant-collector and botanist, Georg Woronow, has broad shiny green leaves; the flowers have a single v mark. It grows in north-east Turkey, southern Russia and Georgia. It grows 6 inches high and is similar to Galanthus ikariae. Photos by David Pilling. The third photo shows this species next to Galanthus nivalis. The fourth photo shows a bulb with offset and 1 inch diameter coin.

Galanthus woronowii, David PillingGalanthus woronowii, David PillingGalanthus woronowii (right) with G. nivalis (left), David PillingGalanthus woronowii bulb with offset and 1 inch diameter coin, David PillingGalanthus woronowii, 1st March 2014, David PillingGalanthus woronowii, 1st March 2014, David Pilling

Photo 4 shows the leaves (from left to right) of nivalis, woronowii, elwesii and nivalis.

Galanthus woronowii, 8th March 2014, David PillingGalanthus woronowii, 8th March 2014, David PillingGalanthus woronowii, 8th March 2014, David PillingGalanthus leaves, 22nd March 2014, David Pilling

Galanthus images in a collage. Grown and photographed in New Jersey by Arnold Trachtenberg.

Galanthus collage, Arnold Trachtenberg

For more pictures of this genus see Mark Smyth's website and Judy's Snowdrops


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Page last modified on March 23, 2014, at 07:48 PM