Sunday, January 17, 2021



I saw my first snowdrop of the year this week. I know it is still far off, but this is the first sign that spring is coming. Easy to see why the snowdrop is a symbol of hope.

Snowdrops have special adaptations that allow them to bloom in January. They produce proteins that act like biological antifreeze to keep their sap from freezing. They have strong leaf tips that let them push up through frozen soil and snow. They usually reproduce asexually from bulbs dividing underground.

This picture is from a warm day in a previous winter. Bees pollinate snowdrops when they can. Obviously there are not a lot of bees volunteering to do so in January, but enough that sometimes the plants reproduce sexually. Snowdrop seeds have a little ant-attracting substance attached and consequently get carried away and essentially planted by ants that eat the ant reward and leave the seed.

The genus name of snowdrops is Galanthus. From that we get a word for snowdrop enthusiasts like me -- Galantophiles. Click to enlarge.

Here is a famous poem from fellow Galantophile, William Wordsworth:

To A Snowdrop

Lone flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend, 

Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day, 

Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

Shall soon behold this border thickly set 

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, 

And pensive monitor of fleeting years! 

More coming!

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