Working together for a sustainable snowdrop trade

Kew is working in partnership to survey populations of snowdrops in Georgia. The project aims to survey cultivated and wild populations and make recommendations to establish long term sustainable trade.

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15 Feb 2010

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Close up of snowdrops

Galanthus woronowii, a species of snowdrop growing wild in Georgia (Image: Richard Wilford)

Kew has been working with Microsoft Ecology, Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) Authorities of Georgia, to survey populations of snowdrops. CITES is an international agreement between governments across the world, that aims to ensure that the international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Cultivated field of snowdrops
A cultivated field of Galanthus woronowii, a species of snowdrop growing wild in Georgia (photo: Richard Wilford)

Sometimes, CITES has reason to believe that high levels of international trade in CITES species, may be a threat to their survival in the wild. In the case of wild snowdrops in Georgia, the CITIES Plants Committee selected a review of Galanthus woronowii.

As a result of this review, the CITIES Secretariat secured funding from the Netherlands to find out more about the status of Galanthus woronowii in Georgia and help protect the species for the future. Kew was enlisted to provide technical support.

The aims of the project were to survey cultivated and wild populations of snowdrops (in particular Galanthus woronowii), model potential sustainable harvest, recommend annual quota levels and develop management and monitor systems to allow a long term sustainable trade in the species.

Richard Wilford, Collections Manager in the Hardy Display section at Kew, and Matthew Smith from Microsoft Ecology, joined the Georgian authorities in 2009 to study cultivation sites and the methods employed in growing the snowdrop Galanthus woronowii.

Georgia currently exports 15 million wild snowdrops per year, and these exports make up some 99% of Georgia’s CITES animal and plant trade. Snowdrops are exported via Turkey to the Netherlands where they enter the horticultural market.

To date over 55 sites have been visited and extensive wild populations and cultivated sites have been sampled and mapped. A draft report was submitted to CITES in January 2010.


First published in Kew Scientist

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