Lili wen fach – snowdrops in spring!

Wednesday 1st February 2017

This delicate little flower is one of the first to emerge at this time of year, bringing with it the promise of warmer days!

As soon as Christmas and New Year is behind us, we at the Wildlife Trust get excited about the prospect of spring – today, we’re only half way through winter, but there are already signs that it’s not far away! Daylight is getting longer, catkins are hanging on some hazel trees (which get a few unlucky people sneezing at this early time of year …) and the garden birds are starting to look their best with bright plumage ready for the breeding season. However, the one sight that really warms our hearts in January/February is the appearance of beautiful, white snowdrops, often from under a covering of snow – the first of a succession of floral colours going into spring.

Of the 20 wild species of snowdrop that occur across Europe, the best known is Galanthus nivalis, which has become naturalised in Britain having been introduced from southern Europe in the late sixteenth century. For those non-Latin speakers amongst us, snowdrops also have over 30 locally derived names, including February fair-maids, Eve’s tear and Candlemas bells. Here in Wales, of course, it’s eirlys – or, perhaps more poetically, lili wen fach – the little white lily.

Folklore says that if snowdrops are taken indoors it will cause misfortune, so if you are at all superstitious it’s probably safest not to pick any to take home and enjoy seeing them in the wild. (N.B. in fact, whether you’re superstitious or not, please don’t take any home!) See if you can spot any early bumblebee queens, honeybees and solitary bees taking advantage of the early spring flowers to forage for much-needed nectar and pollen.

Why not take a winter wander for yourself?

Other spring flowers to look out for in the coming weeks will be lesser celandine, wood anemone, wild daffodil, wood sorrel and wild garlic. These, and more, can be experienced at many of our nature reserves, in particular our north-east Wales woodlands: Coed Cilygroeslwyd (near Pwllglas, Ruthin), Coed y Felin and Coed Trellyniau (both near Mold).