Category: Plantax- the stories behind plant names

Aly Baumgartner

The history of science is full of interesting characters, and Carl Linnaeus certainly fits the bill. Known as the father of modern taxonomy, he was born in Sweden on May 23rd, 1707. He was only the second generation of the name Linnaeus. In fact, when his father enrolled in school he was required to take a family name (instead of using the patronymic name Ingemarsson) and he chose Linnaeus after a giant linden tree that grew on his family homestead. With a name like that, Carl seemed to be destined for biological greatness.

Linnaeus showed an interest in botany from a very young age. His father, an amateur botanist, encouraged his son’s enthusiasm. When he enrolled at the Lund University in 1727, he knew that botany was a very serious subject. He registered under the name ‘Carolus Linnæus’, the latinized form of his name. He later would use this form…

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The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

The Yellow Tree Peony (Paeonia lutea)

Paeonia or Peony to give this genus it’s common name,  is native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and estimates of the number of species range from 25 to 40. Peonies are the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae.


Paeonia 'Itoh'

Paeonia ‘Itoh’

Peonies can be classified by both plant growth habit and flower type. Plant growth types are Herbaceous (nonwoody), Tree (shrub), and Itoh (or “Intersectional”), which is intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. In winter herbaceous peonies die back to their underground parts, whereas tree peonies lose their leaves but retain viable woody stems above ground. The Itoh hybrids are intermediate between herbaceous and tree forms. They are named after Toichi Itoh, who first produced a successful intersectional hybrid in 1948. The herb Peony (particularly the root of P. lactiflora) has been used frequently in traditional medicines of Korea, China and Japan.

Paeonia 'Rozella'

Paeonia ‘Rozella’

Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

The name Paeonia derives form the ancient greek physician, Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of  medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil so Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the Peony flower. Another explanation is that Paeon was the first to use the plant medicinally.

Other garden Paeony names are:

P. albiflora = white – flowered

P. corallina = the colour of coral

P. lutea = yellow

P. moutan = a japanese name derived from Meu-tang, the King of Flowers in chinese myhthology- the ‘Tree Peony’

P. officinalis = of the shop (i.e. was orignally sold in an apothecary/herbal), still found growing wild in Europe. The European or Common Peony. The variety Rubra is the double red peony of cottage gardens


Paeonia officinalis

Paeonia officinalis

Sources and further information:


RHS- cultivating Peonies

Telegraph – how to grow Peonies

Passion for Peonies blogspot


answers to the two clues given in Plantax 8…

  • Irish singer is growing worse – vanilla
  • Tease Mr Disney – ragwort

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Substandard animal limb
  • West Indies batsman + Food superstore

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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My Botanical Garden


File:Dieffenbachia daguensis DPR.png


Dieffenbachia was the plant growing to in-believable size in the window of a restaurant in the middle of the town .Bus had a stop just in front of that window and I remember my childhood fascination seeing this plant each time again on my bus ride.I believed it had to be very difficult to grow such a big , old plant , filling the whole window with white green leaves each turning toward light from the street. Usually there were no lights turned on in the restaurant, the darkness of unknown inside was shadowing the vivid patterns of the only evident thing to be alive behind that window.Many years later I had a dinner in the same restaurant and could not believe the plant was still there, strong and green as from yesterday, but from this side of the window almost obvious and earthly, far less mysterious as it looked from my bus view.Yet it…

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Cotoneaster frigidus leaves and fruit

Cotoneaster frigidus – leaves and fruit

Cotoneaster  is a genus of flowering plants in the rose family, native to temperate Asia, Europe and north Africa. It has  a strong concentration of different species in the mountains of southwestern China and the Himalayas. They are related to Hawthorns, Firethorns, Photinias and Rowans. Depending on the definition used, there are between 70 and 300 different species.

The majority of Cotoneaster species are shrubs from 0.5–5 metres tall, varying from ground-hugging prostrate plants to erect shrubs. A few, notably C. frigidus, are small trees up to 15 metres tall and 75 centimetres trunk diameter. The prostrate species are mostly alpine plants growing at high altitude (e.g. C. integrifolius, which grows at 3,000–4,000 metres in the Himalayas), while the larger species occur in scrub and woodland gaps at lower altitudes. Cotoneasters are very popular garden shrubs, grown for their attractive habit and decorative fruit. Many are cultivars, some of  hybrid origin; of these, some are of known parentage.

Cotoneaster franchetii

Cotoneaster franchetii

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Cotoneaster horizontalis

The name Cotoneaster derives from the old Latin cotoneus meaning Quince and aster probably a corruption of ad instar meaning ‘a likeness’ – so ‘Quince like’.

Other species names are:

C. adpressa = close, pressed-down growth or fruits closely pressed against the branch

C. applanata = the branches lie flat or in a plane

C. bullata = wrinkled, referring to the leaves

C. buxifolia = box (buxus) -leaved

C. congesta = crowded, the plant’s habit

C. divaricata =spread-out, forking , referring to the branches

C. franchettii = after Franchet, a French botanist

C.  frigida = cold,frosty, probably referring to its native habitat

C. harroviana = after G. Harrow, a nurseryman once of Coombe Wood Nursery

C. henryana = after Dr. Augustine Henry, a 19th century Chinese customs official and ‘plant hunter’

C. horiziontalis = horizontal, its growth habit

C. humifusa = spread on the ground

C. lacteus =  milky, probably referring to the milky white flowers (the ‘Late Cotoneaster’)

C. lucida = shining, referring to the leaves

C. microphylla = small – leaved

C. multiflora = many flowered

C. pannosa = woolly, the foliage

C. rotundifoilia = round leaved

C. salicifolia = willow (salix) leaved

C. simonsii = after Simons, (The ‘Himalayan Cotoneaster’ or ‘Simon’s Cotoneaster’)

Cotoneaster adpressus

Cotoneaster adpressus

Cotoneaster lacteus - flowers

Cotoneaster lacteus – flowers

Cotoneaster simonsii

Cotoneaster simonsii

Sources and further information:


Encyclopedia Britannica

Growing Cotoneasters

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Cotoneaster lacteus

Cotoneaster simonsii

Quizzicals: answers to the two in Plantax 7…

  • Bird swearing – Crocus
  • Vasectomy for Dad – Parsnip

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Irish singer is growing worse
  • Tease Mr Disney

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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Tropaeolum majus

Tropaeolum majus

Tropaeolum is a genus of about 80 species of annuals and perennials native to South/Central America. The common Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is the most frequently found member of the family. 

Nasturtium is from the latin words meaning literally “nose-twister” or “nose-tweaker” (referring to the pungent smell of some species!). The Tropaeolum Nasturtiums received their common name because they produce an oil that is similar to that produced by watercress (Nasturtium officinale).

Tropaeolum peregrinum

Tropaeolum peregrinum

Tropaeolum includes several very popular garden plants, the most commonly grown being T. majus T. peregrinum and T. speciosum The hardiest species is T. polyphyllum from Chile, the perennial roots of which can survive underground when air temperatures drop as low as −15 °C (5 °F).

Plants in this genus have showy, often intensely bright flowers (in reds, oranges and yellows), and rounded, shield- shaped leaves which vary in colour and include some attractive blue – green tones. Flowers have five petals (sometimes more) and a funnel-shaped nectar tube at the back. The name Tropaeolum is from the Latin tropaeum , meaning ‘trophy’ and was originally chosen by the swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century.

After victory in battle, the Romans used to set up a trophy pole called a tropaeum (from the Greek tropaion, source of the English word ‘trophy’). On this the armour and weapons of the vanquished foe were hung. Linnaeus was reminded of this by the plant as the round leaves resemble shields and the flowers, blood-stained helmets.

Tropaeolums in flower

Tropaeolums in a border

Species names of Tropaeolum include:

T. aduncum = hooked (the flowers)

T. canariense = canary – referring to the colour and shape of the flowers (the ‘Canary Creeper’)

T. lobbianum =  after Lobb the plant collector

T. majus = great (the Climbing Nasturtium)

T. minus = small (the Dwarf Nasturtium)

T. pentaphyllum = five leaved or divided into five

T. pergrinum = foreign or wandering, probably referring to its straggly growth

T. speciosum = showy

T. tuberosum = tuberous

'Canary Creeper' (T. canariense)

‘Canary Creeper’ (T. canariense)

Nasturtiums were also known as “Indian cress”. This derived from their use as a salad ingredient and because at that time South/Central America was referred to as ‘the Indies’. The 16th-century herbalist John Gerard called the plant “Lark’s Heel”, referring to the flower’s spur (and similar to Larkspur).

All parts of T. majus are edible. The flower is most often eaten as an ornamental salad ingredient or in a stir fry; it has a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress. The flowers contain about 130 milligrams of Vitamin C per 100 grams or about the same amount as in Parsley. The unripe seed pods can be harvested and dropped into spiced vinegar to produce a condiment and garnish, sometimes used in place of capers.

Tropaeolum leaves and flowers as salad ingredients

Tropaeolum leaves and flowers as salad ingredients

Nasturtiums have been used in herbal medicines for their antiseptic and expectorant qualities. They are said to be good for a chest cold and to promote well being by the formation of new blood cells. The common Nasturtium has been used in herbal medicine for respiratory and urinary tract infections.

The bright, quaintly – shaped flowers are usually freely produced on long stalks, and the fast growth of many of the climbers makes the Tropaeolum a very useful, decorative plant. They will spill beautifully over walls and onto paths, when used as edging plants. They also hold up very well in containers. Climbing varieties, such as ‘Canary Creeper’ will amble up and through shrubs. Bushy, ground hugging plants will fill in gaps among complementary – coloured day lilies and roses.

You can use clusters of plants to brighten up the vegetable garden – and to act as ‘sacrificial’ ‘plants to attract caterpillars away from your brassicas!

Sources and further information:


Tropaeolum speciosum

Growing Tropaeolum

Tropaeolum varieties

Quizzicals: two cryptic clues to flower, plant, veg or fruit names –

  • Bird swearing
  • Vasectomy for Dad

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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Daffodil flower close up

Narcissus is a genus of bulbous perennials in the Amaryllis family. They are in the  main hardy and most flower in the spring. There are various common names used to describe all or some of the genus – daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil. Narcissus are native to meadows and woods in Europe, North Africa and West Asia, centred in the Western Mediterranean.

There is disagreement about the number of distinct species (these range from 26 to more than 60 depending on who you ask) – as some are very similar and others have hybridised. All Narcissus cultivars are split into 13 divisions (using a combination of flower form and genetic background). New cultivars are registered by name and color with the Royal Horticultural Society, which is the international registration authority for the genus.

More than 27,000 names were registered as of 2008!

Narcissus flowers

Narcissus flowers

The name “daffodil” is derived from an earlier word  “affodell”, a variant of Asphodel (another group of Mediterranean plants). The reason for the addition of the  initial “d” is not known, although it could be a ‘slip of the dutch tongue’ – the merging of the main word with the Dutch article “de”, as in “De affodil”. Playful synonyms  “Daffadown Dilly”, “daffadown dilly”, and “daffydowndilly” appeared as early as the 16th century. Everyday use of the term Daffodil tends to refer to the wild daffodil (N. pseudonarcissus).

The name Narcissus comes from the same latin word, which in turn is based on an ancient greek word – but its meaning is unknown. It could be a word loaned from another language. The most common explanation is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, a Thespian hunter renowned for his beauty. He became so obsessed with his own reflection in a pool of water that as he knelt and gazed into it, he fell into the water and drowned. Some variations of the myth say that he died of starvation and thirst. In both versions the Narcissus plant sprang from his remains. However, this is by no means a certain derivation and it could be the that the hunter’s name was derived from the flower rather than the other way round!

Another explanation for the name comes from Pliny who stated that the plant was named because of its narcotic properties (the greek word means ‘to grow numb’). There’s no evidence to support this idea and it seems to have fallen out of favour. However,  all Narcissus species do contain the poison lycorine (mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves). The bulbs can often be confused with onions, thereby leading to incidents of accidental poisoning.

On 1 May 2009 a number of schoolchildren fell ill at Gorseland Primary School in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, England, after a daffodil bulb was added to soup during a cookery class.

Another problem is what florists call, “daffodil itch” – a skin problem often found on the hands after contact with the plant’s sap. Some cultivars seem more likely to cause this kind of dermatitis; eg  ‘Actaea’, ‘Camparelle’, ‘Gloriosa’, ‘Grande Monarque’, ‘Ornatus’, ‘Princeps’ and ‘Scilly White’.

Narcissus geranium

Narcissus geranium

The Narcissus is used quite widely as a symbol:

  • of unrequited love (after the Narcissus myth)
  • of vanity (the West)
  • of wealth and good fortune (the East).
  • of the new year (Kurdish and Chinese cultures).
  • of beautiful eyes (Persian culture)
  • of the nation (Wales – where the daffodil is known as ‘Peter’s Leek’)
  • of Easter (the German for daffodil is Osterglocke or ‘Easter Bell’)
Cornwall daffodils- traditionally the place (along with the Scilly Isles and Channel Islands) where early supplies of cut flowers are sent out to the rest of Britain.

Cornwall Daffodils- traditionally the place (along with the Scilly Isles and Channel Islands) where early supplies of cut flowers are sent out to the rest of Britain.

Some of the species names are:

N. bulbocodium = probably greek for ‘bulb’ (bolbos) and ‘a little fleece’ (kodion) – referring to the covering of the bulb – the ‘Hoop Petticoat Daffodil’

N. cyclamineus = like a Cyclamen flower

N. incomparabilis = incomparable

N. jonquilla = probably from ‘juncus’ (a rush) – the leaves being rush-like. The ‘Jonquil’

N. juncifolia = like Jonquil, rush – leaved!

N. major = larger

N. maximus = largest

N. minor = smaller

N. odorus = sweet-scented

N. poeticus = poet’s – the ‘Poets’ Narcissus’

N. pseudonarcissus = the false Narcissus. The ‘English Daffodil’

N. tazetta = an old name for the ‘Polyanthus Narcissus’

N. triandrus = having three stamens

Daffodil growing tips

Daffodil growing tips

Both species and hybrids are used extensively in gardens and grounds, looking good planted in borders or in naturalized drifts at the base of deciduous trees. Propagation is mainly from bulbs which are very easy to grow. They require little maintenance, but with some minimum care they can be more vigorous and floriferous, and they’ll multiply much more quickly, improving the show they provide each year. (see ‘Ten tips for looking after Daffodils’ above). Narcissus grows almost anywhere, although it does prefer well-drained soils with a sunny or light shade environment. The Narcissus species types are more specific in their requirements.

Naturalised Daffodils

Naturalised Daffodils

Source and further information:


Growing Narcissus

Kew Gardens- Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Daffodil classification

Old School Gardener

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Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc'

Crocus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’

In the wild, Crocus vernus begins to flower as the snow melts in the mountains of Europe. It is native to the Mediterranean from the Pyrenees in the west to the Ukraine in the east, and south as far as Sicily and the Balkans. This spicy herald of spring has a history dating back thousands of years.

Crocus (plural: crocuses, croci) is part of the Iris family and consists of around 90 species. They are perennials, growing from corms. Cultivated mainly for their flowers which appear in autumn, winter, or spring, Crocuses are also cultivated and harvested for Saffron– the spice obtained from the flower’s anthers. This practice was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete.  Saffron’s bitter taste and hay-like fragrance is complimented by its rich golden-yellow hue, used to colour food and textiles.It has been  traded and used for over four thousand years. Iran now accounts for approximately 90 percent of the world production of Saffron. Because each flower’s anthers need to be collected by hand and there are only a few per flower, Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world.

The name Crocus is derived from the Greek (krokos), which in turn is probably derived from a Semitic or Sanskrit word, which mean saffron or saffron yellow. Over the years the classification of Crocus species has been revised several times, the division of the many species challenging botanists because of the range of characteristics that are available for scrutiny. Some of the species are:

C. aureus = goldencrocus

C. biflorus = two – flowered – the ‘Scotch Crocus’

C. chrysanthus = golden – flowered

C. minimus = smallest

C. nudiflorus = naked flowered

C. ochroleucus = yellowish – white

C. sativus = The Saffron Crocus

C. sieberi = after Sieber, a botanist

C. susianus = from Susa, Persia

C. vernus = spring flowering- the Dutch or Spring Crocuses are derived from this species

C. versicolour = changing or varied colour

The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back in the 1560s from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador who sent a few corms to the botanical garden in Leiden. By 1620, new garden varieties had been developed. Some species, known as “autumn crocus”, flower in late summer and autumn, often before their leaves appear. They should not be confused with Colchicum, a different genus of autumn – flowering plants.

crocus carpetAt the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in 1987, Reader’s Digest sponsored the planting of 1.6 million corms of cultivated Dutch crocus for their 50th anniversary. A further 750,000 corms of C. vernus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ and C. vernus ‘Purpureus grandiflorus’ have been planted since – a visit to Kew to see this ‘Crocus Carpet’ is a must.

Sources and further information:


The Alpine House – information

National Crocus collection – Wisley

A crocus planter

Crocus carpet at Kew


Pacific Bulb Society

Old School Gardener

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cyclamenCyclamen is a genus of plants containing around 20 species, part of the Primrose family.

They originate from areas surrounding the mediterranean, have tuberous roots and aren’t an obvious relation of the primrose. Growing in Beech woodland, scrub and rocky areas, and even alpine meadows, they’ll flower in snow meltwater. Although there are relatively few species in the genus there is at least one that will be in flower at all times of the year. In the UK, there are some species which can withstand frost, others which are more tender and some which are not at all frost hardy. Some cultivars of C. persicum are indoor or florists’ plants, flower in the winter or spring and come in a wide range of colours.

The medieval gardens of Constantinople featured Cyclamen as they looked so different from wild flowers in the surrounding fields.

The name Cyclamen is Latin in origin (cyclamīnos) which in turn comes from the Ancient Greek (kyklos) meaning “circle” . This seems to refer either to the round tubers that sit just below ground level or to the way, after flowering, the slender flower-stalk twists into a spiral curl, and, bending over, ripens the seed vessel on the surface of the ground.

Rather like truffles, these tubers are said to be a favourite of pigs. Hence, in many languages the different species have common names reflecting this – Sowbread in English, Pain de pourceau in French, Pan porcino in Italian and Varkensbrood in Dutch.

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Cyclamen cilicicum leaves

Some of the species names are:

C. cilicicum = cicilian

C. coum = of cous or cos, an island off Turkey

C. europaeum = European

C. hederifolium = Ivy – leaved

C. ibericum = of Iberia

C. latifiolium = broad-leaved

C. neapolitanum = of Naples

C. persicum = of Persia

C. repandum = scalloped- refering to the leaf margins

C. hederifolium, which is hardy in the UK, retains it’s attractive marbled leaves for at least nine months of the year, and has a graceful display of pale – to deep-pink, delicate blooms on slender stalks through autumn. This is one of the most popular woodland shade plants and is swift to colonise areas beneath trees. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Cyclamen in a woodland setting

Further information:

Growing Cyclamen from seed

The Cyclamen Society


Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen coum

‘Pretty in Pink’ – article by Sarah Raven

Medicinal uses of Cyclamen

Old School Gardener

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sweet-pea-flowerThe ‘Queen of Annuals’ is being billed as the cottage garden favourite for 2013′.

It’s botanical name- Lathyrus odoratus- comes from an ancient greek word (Lathyrus) meaning  pea or vetchling and odoratus meaning ‘fragrant’. The genus Lathyrus contains about 160 species and of the many cultivars of the Sweet Pea, some 52 varieties have been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.  The many varieties of Sweet pea available today come in a wide range of colours, but not yellow!



“The Sweet Pea has a keel that was meant to seek all shores; it has wings that were meant to fly across all continents; it has a standard which is friendly to all nations; and it has a fragrance like the universal gospel, yea, a sweet prophecy of welcome everywhere that has been abundantly fulfilled” – Rev. W. T. Hutchins 1900

Sweet pea cultivation is thought to have begun in the 17th century. The originator of the modern plant naming system, the swedish botanist Linnaeus, carried on using the genus name Lathyrus, which was in common use in the 18th century, but gave the Sweet pea it’s species name odoratus to codify the various names used for it at the time.

sweet-pea-flowers-7Victorian times saw a craze for the plant and a host of new cultivars were created as a result, many beginning their lives as mutations or ‘sports’ of known varieties. The original dwarf sweet pea was found growing in a row of a popular grandiflora variety in California  in the late 19th century. It had similar flowers to its parent but was much shorter and with a spreading habit. Given the name ‘Cupid’, this later became the general name used for dwarf sweet peas. Later crossings of these and other grandifloras produced a wide range of ‘cupids’ and later still these were crossed with the newer ‘Spencer’ sweet peas which resulted in a range of ‘cupids’ with larger flowers.

The large-flowered Spencer sweet pea appears to have arisen in two or three places at around the same time, but perhaps the most famous source was the home of the Spencer family (of Lady Diana fame) in Northamptonshire. The head gardener of Althorp HouseSilas Cole – named this ‘Countess Spencer’, though he seems at the time to have claimed it arose from deliberate cross breeding rather than as an accident of nature!

Sweet peas can be grown in different ways, but perhaps the most common technique is the cordon, introduced in 1911 by Tom Jones of Ruabon. This is used to produce flowers of the highest quality and in effect is a form of pruning and training which channels the plant’s energies into a smaller number of larger blooms. This process involves:

  • The top of a young seedling being pinched out once it has produced several true leaves, which encourages branching
  • One of the resulting side shoots (a strong one emerging near the base of the plant) is retained, and the others removed before they develop
  • The remaining stem is allowed to grow and is tied in, but all of its side shoots are removed as they form, as are any tendrils to prevent them fastening onto the flower stems
  • The fewer flower stems produce larger blooms and once finished these flowers are removed to encourage new ones to form.

Several plants can be grown in this way along a row to produce a sweet pea screen.

Fresh sweet pea flowers in the house have been shown to improve general wellbeing, boost both male and female libido, and lessen the effects of a hangover! However, the seeds of some species of Lathyrus contain a toxic amino acid which if eaten in large quantities can cause the serious disease Lathyrism.


Sources and further information:

Sweet Pea Flower pictures

Quizzicals: two more cryptic clues to plants, fruit or veg:

  • Has had too much already
  • A country full of automobiles

Old School Gardener

Image‘Hope of spring’, the first  Snowdrop seems to say, as it pops it’s small white flowers above what is pretty much a garden of bare earth and dead stems.

The botanical name for the genus is Galanthus from the greek for ‘milk’ (gala) and ‘flower’ (anthos). It’s a small genus of about 20 species of bulbous herbaceous plants native across much of Europe. Most flower in winter, before the vernal equinox, but certain species flower in early spring and late autumn. This year the mild start to 2013 has encouraged early flowering in some areas.

The Snowdrop is perennial bulb which contains an active substance called Galantamine– this is also found in Narcissi- and is helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The Common Snowdrop also contains another active substance called Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) which has been used to genetically modify potatoes, but this has caused some controversy. In 1998 a scientist called Pusztai claimed that the modified potatoes caused damage to the intestines and immune systems of rats.

There are numerous single- and double-flowered cultivars of Galanthus nivalis, and also of several other Galanthus species. Some of the better known species are:

  • G. byzantinus- ‘Byzantine’
  • G. plicatus- ‘folded’ referring to the leaves
  • G. elwesii– after ‘Elwes’, a botanist and author
  • G. nivalis– ‘snowy’- the Common Snowdrop


An important feature which helps to distinguish between different species (and to help to determine the parentage of hybrids) is their ‘vernation’ (the arrangement of the emerging leaves relative to each other). This can be “applanate”, “supervolute” or “explicative”. In applanate vernation the two leaf blades are pressed flat to each other within the bud and as they emerge; explicative leaves are also pressed flat against each other, but the edges of the leaves are folded back or sometimes rolled (as in G. plicatus) ; in supervolute plants one leaf is tightly clasped around the other within the bud and generally remains at the point where the leaves emerge from the soil.


‘Snowdrops’ – US miltary style

“Snowdrops” was the nickname that, during the 2nd World War, the British gave to the U.S. Army’s Military Police based in the U.K. – because they wore a white helmet, gloves, gaiters, and belt against their olive drab uniform.

A ‘Galantophile’  is a snowdrop enthusiast, including authors of snowdrop books, cultivators, collectors or those displaying Snowdrops. Well known ‘Galanthophiles’ are the horticulturalist E.A. Bowles and nurseryman James Allen . Modern day Galanthophiles are of all ages and visit the many gardens open to the public which feature large naturalised plantings of Snowdrops.

Sources and other information:


Royal Horticultural Society

Royal Horticultural Society- book

Galanthus mania

The world’s most expensive Galanthus bulb



Two more crytpic clues to plants, fruit or veg:

  • Morissey’s mother’s mother
  • Someone who is out to get you

Old School Gardener


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Bits & Tidbits


Rambling in the Garden

.....and nurturing my soul

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy


Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy


Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably


A girl and her garden :)



Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

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