After the jollifications of Christmas and New Year and a little rest in January, the days are now noticeably becoming longer and we can welcome the procession of spring flowers, starting with snowdrops.
The snowdrop is a perennial which is part of the amaryllis family and is native to Europe and the Middle East. Although it is often thought of as a British native wild flower, or to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, it most likely was introduced around the early sixteenth century. This illustration is from John Gerard’s Herball of 1597.
It was first recorded as naturalised in the UK in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire in 1770. Although previously being known by other names, it was in 1753 that it was botanically named as Galanthus nivalis, “milk flower of the snow”, by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist.
Flowering so early in spring the blossoms symbolise hope, fertility, renewal and rebirth, with the white petals signifying purity and modesty. Being commonly found in graveyards, to the Victorians snowdrops were often associated with death.
Today snowdrops often stand for sympathy or hope.