Snowdrops — Galanthus
Why do snowdrops flower in the depths of winter?
The snowdrops or Galanthus has also been called the fair maid of February and it is not uncommon to see these little white flowers poking their heads above ground at the coldest part of the winter.
Snowdrops flower between January and March, often appearing en masse and creating a characteristic ‘white blanket’ coverage. Its Latin classification, Galanthus nivalis, literally means ‘milk flower of the snow’.
Snowdrops have been doing the same thing for millions of years — ever since they appeared for the first time. But they were not growing in northern Europe then. Snowdrops originally came from the eastern Mediterranean and from North Africa. The climate in those regions is different from the northern Europe. As holiday advertisements keep reminding, the summers are long, hot and dry. Most of the rain falls there in winter and early spring.
Snowdrops and flowers like them need moisture to grow. So they hide underground when the weather is hot and dry, living on food they have stored in their swollen bases or corms. When the winter rains come, the snowdrops begin to grow and eventually blossom, despite the cold.
Snowdrops have spread far and wide from their first home but they have never lost their pattern of growth and they are still the first flowers to appear in most parks and gardens.