Bulbocodium, and Snowdrop / Snowflake Confusion

Judy Glattstein jgglatt@gmail.com
Mon, 22 Mar 2010 11:00:32 PDT
Absurd 70 degree Fahrenheit weather on Sunday & Monday. All sorts of 
early bulbs hurling themselves above ground and into flower. If you care 
to see Bulbocodium vernum and what else is in flower here at BelleWood 
Gardens, have a look: BelleWood in Bloom 2010 

A recent visit to my local library turned up Pick of the Bunch: The 
Story of Twelve Treasured Flowers, by Margaret Willes, Bodleian Library, 

It includes lily, daffodil and narcissus, fritillary, tulip, hyacinth, 
snowdrop, and dahlia. Lovely illustrations from old books, and quotes 
with references to information from Besler, Clusius, all the "usual 

One issue that puzzles me - she's writing about the confusion between 
snowdrops and snowflakes (pre-Linnaeus) and on page 121 writes:
"The modest dimensions of the snowdrop and its early flowering made it 
an unlikely candidate for the great seventeenth-century flower 
paintings. The snowflake does make an appearance, however, as in 
Bosschaert's picture. As it can grow up to a metre in height, it was 
often used to crown an arrangement, along with tulips and irises."

On page 49 there's a reproduction of a page from Brunfels's Herbarium 
vivae eicones of 1530. It depicts Narcissus pseudonarcissus "alongside a 
snowflake" which clearly depicts the bulb e know today as Leucojum 
vernum, with but a single flower per stem.

Back to the snowdrop chapter, and on page 118 we can read "The 
snowflake, which looks very like the snowdrop, though they have 
essential differences in the forms of the perianth and anther, Linnaeus 
called Leocoium aestivum, thus indicating it is a flower of the summer, 
although Besler had thought otherwise."

Now come on, folks. Do you find the appearance of snowdrop and snowflake 
so similar as to be confused? Is Leucojum aestivum, flowering in May 
with 3 or more flowers indistinguishable from L. vernum flowering 2 
months early at less than half the size and only a single flower?

The book is worth a perusal for the images alone, nice references, and 
perhaps she's not a gardener who looks are actual growing plants, as do 
we in PBS.

Judy in New Jersey where today is gray and rain

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