Galanthus nivalis, the best-known species of snowdrop, is native to a large area of Europe stretching from the Pyrenees in the south of France to Poland in the north and European Turkey in the east. Those you see growing in North Wales are therefore introductions – albeit ones from a UK population established for more than a millennium! Most other cultivated snowdrop species you’ll see are from the eastern Mediterranean, though several are found in South Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. They all vary in shape and size: the Crimean snowdrop, Galanthus plicatus, can grow as tall as 30 cm! Soldiers at the Crimean battlefield (1853-1856) were apparently so enchanted by this flower that they brought it home to plant in their gardens.
Some snowdrop species are threatened in their wild habitats, and in most countries it is now illegal to collect bulbs from the wild. If you want to plant snowdrops in your garden, now is the best time to buy them ‘in the green’ – buying them in a pot from a reputable garden centre.
Did you know?
The scientific name for snowdrops, Galanthus, means ‘milk flower’ – and, maybe surprisingly, they do release a delicate fragrance on a warm day.