I’m trying with this blog to do several things simultaneously. First, to share with fellow galanthophiles my version of the delight we feel when contemplating snowdrops. Second, to encourage people who are already galanthophiles to consider thinking about snowdrops as players in a fabulously intricate evolutionary drama, as well as beautiful, collectable objects and third, to try and reach plant lovers who are not yet galanthophiles because they don’t yet know how variable this exquisite genus is.

My previous posts have all been text and pictures, with a few short video clips. In this one I’m trying something completely different. Snowdrops in flower move. As the light and the temperature change, so does the mood in a population. Scent drifts up from the plants. They grow as members of a community of other plants and animals. They exist in a geographical context and they live in the Anthropocene. I wondered whether a documentary would be a better way of getting all this across. So this is an experiment. Please let me know what you think.

There are a few captions clarifying some of my comments. You may need to turn on captions in the bottom-right of the viewer.

Anyone interested in a formal description of G. bursanus, should consult the excellent paper in which it was described. It is available here and happily is not behind a paywall.

Also interesting to anyone fascinated by the classification of snowdrops is the most recent paper describing the phylogeny – evolutionary history – of the genus. It is a bit out of date, but it remains the latest published word. You will need to use a bit of ingenuity to get free access to this one. Try Googling ‘Sci Hub’, if you are stuck.

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13 thoughts

  1. What a treat to see Tom you must be in your element with all this beauty around you.
    Thank you for doing these videos such a pleasure to see & so informative
    Glad there are people like you saving these beauties …
    I’ve learnt more about where they grow & the condition they thrive in so thank you.
    One day I’ll get to see

    Keep safe Paddy

  2. Tom.
    It is magnificently refreshing to see and hear you!
    I am thrilled to see you comfortable in your surroundings,, with those that inspire you and give you pleasure.
    I still have a few ‘Evolution Plants’ that flourish each year. So many memories. Stay safe Tom. X

  3. Many thanks, Tom. I had to postpose my viewing of the video by 24 hours or so as there were other demands on my time. It was wonderful to see Galanthus bursanus, and the other species, in their natural environment and such a concern that these environments are under threat in places.

    I have been amazed at the spread of G. bursanus; how a species only described in 2019, I believe, seems to be growing in gardens all around the world. Have gardeners been like the taxonomists and revised the identity and labels of snowdrops already growing with them or is there some other explanation?

    Over the past ten years or so I have attempted to grow Galanthus ‘Mary Hely-Hutchinson’, a cultivar of Irish origin which is an autumn-flowering plicatus. It has been in circulation here in Ireland for many years and I believe, but have failed as of yet to confirm, that such a snowdrop has been grown in some old gardens in the south of Ireland for many years. This might an introduction of some form of G. bursanus quite some time back. As my friend in the botanic gardens says when I ask for a check on the identity of one of our native orchids – “We’d need to do a DNA check on that one!”

    Many thanks for you most interesting report and they video was a very enjoyable way to see everything.

    1. Hi Paddy,

      As we’ve discussed previously in this forum, you are quite right to be a bit cynical about the routes that these plants have taken into cultivation and about the ways in which snowdrops in general make their way around the world. I would love to have a full, frank and open discussion on this subject but one of the unintended consequences of the (mostly) well-meaning but sometimes pointless or even counterproductive laws put in place to try to protect endangered species is that this just ain’t possible.

      I will say that I personally believe it is unequivocally a good thing that G. bursanus is no longer restricted to a handful of vulnerable sites in one nation state, with priorities in which snowdrops do not rank highly.

      I’m fascinated by your comment on G. ‘Mary Hely-Hutchinson’. I’ve never grown it. How wide are the leaves? Do you have photographs? If so, would you send them to me? Your suggestion about its origin is not at all unlikely. There are, however, a few late autumn or early winter-flowering populations of G. plicatus subsp. byzantinus that probably flower earlier in cultivation than they do in the wild but all the ones I know have rather broad leaves.

      All the best,

      Tom

      1. Fascinating video Tom, thank you so much for freely sharing your experiences and knowledge. It is lovely to be able to see, albeit vicariously, these plants in their habitat. My other obsession is Paeonia, so it was a double joy. I’m booked onto the Greentours trip to the Greek Rhodopi to see Paeonia saurei with Oron Peri and Andy Byfield in April, which of course sadly won’t be going ahead now.
        I bought Galanthus ‘Mary Hely-Hutchinson’ from Rannveig Wallis in August 2019. Leaves on mine are to about 1.3cm wide; somewhat greener and narrower than those of G. plicatus ‘Hunton Herald’ which is the only other pre-Christmas plicatus I grow (leaves 1.8cm wide).
        Take care
        Gail

        1. You are welcome Gail! Glad you enjoyed the video. I’m really sorry to hear about your cancelled trip. With those two guides it would have been amazing. Next year, perhaps? Many thanks for the measurements. I think that’s a bit too wide for G. bursanus, though it is likely that the leaves do get wider later in the season. The couple of photos I’ve been able to find online don’t look quite right either. I suppose ‘Three Ships’, which has the highly textured outers often seen in G. bursanus is also a candidate.

  4. Great narrative in situ, Tom, especially in view of near future threats for whole G. bursanus area of distribution you visually outlined, e.g. I found out that the locus on your video near crop field was already fenced with red tape in last autumn, for what?? sad story might be there…. Like one with the population of G. cilicicus which was destroyed last year by built road….
    and hello from Sergey and Misha!

    mutually friendly,
    Dima Zubov.

    1. Thanks Dima. That’s really sad to hear about the fenced-off area. I’m hoping to get back there in November and will report on developments if I manage that. I hope the bulk of the population is still there. I have a long and, sadly, growing list of populations partially or completely destroyed by development, including the well-known population of G. elwesii var. monostictus nor far from Kemer. It’s all very sad. Very best wishes to you and also to Sergey and Misha. Hope you are all surviving the pandemic and its consequences. Tom