Bulbocodium, and Snowdrop / Snowflake Confusion

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Mon, 22 Mar 2010 17:07:16 PDT
Somehow, the final paragraphs of the original version of this post
disappeared when it was sent. And, I pasted in the wrong subject line. So,
if, in the future, someone should stumble on this part of the post, the
beginning of it is in the thread Re:[PBS] Blooming now. 


Here's the rest of it:



Parkinson treated the snowdrop as an exotic plant. He seems to have known
two sorts: Leucoium bulbosum praecox minus and Leucoium bulbosum praecox
minus  Byzantinum. The former was likely what we know as Galanthus nivalis:
he mentions that it quickly splits up into many, as he calls them, of-sets. 


I’ll leave it to someone else to explain when the modern names snowdrop and
snowflake in their modern horticultural senses came into common usage.
Parkinson did not have a vernacular English name for them other than
“bulbous violet”, a name strongly influenced by the botanical term (his
Leucoium is from the Greek words for white and violet). The violet part was
perhaps influenced by the violet scent of  L. vernum. He does cite
vernacular names in other languages: for instance, the Dutch Somer Sottekens
(probably for Leucojum aestivum). The modern German term for snowdrop,
Schneetropfchen (from the words for snow and drop) is not cited by
Parkinson, nor is any other German name. But he does attribute both his
Leucoium bulbosum maius (= our Leucojum vernum) and his Leucoium bulbosum
minus (likely our Galanthus nivalis)  to Germany and Hungary.  


Because Parkinson’s concept of daffodil (his Narcissus and Pseudonarcissus)
was very broad – it also included what we now know as Zephyranthes,
Pancratium and Sprekelia - some people might find these old attempts at
taxonomy risible. But ask yourself  (and be honest): would you have guessed
that Sprekelia, Zephyranthes, Narcissus, Pancratium are not only related,
but more closely related to one another than they are to  tulips,
fritillaries, erythroniums and lilies? 


Jim McKenney


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