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Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)

The common snowdrop is one of the most popular of all cultivated bulbous plants, and its flowering is traditionally seen to herald the end of winter.
Closed flowers of the common snowdrop

The delicate white hanging flowers of Galanthus nivalis

Species information

Scientific name: 

Galanthus nivalis L.

Common name: 

common snowdrop, snowdrop, flower of hope (English); galantine d’hiver, perce-neige (French); bucaneve (Italian); hovirag (Hungarian)

Conservation status: 

Rated as Near Threatened (NT) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Mostly deciduous woodland, but occasionally coniferous woodland. Also in meadows, pasture, amongst scrub, near rivers and on stony slopes, particularly on calcareous soils.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, medicinal, insecticide

Known hazards: 

Snowdrops and their bulbs are poisonous to humans and can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting if eaten in large quantities.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Lilianae
Order: 
Asparagales
Family: 
Amaryllidaceae
Genus: Galanthus

About this species

Galanthus nivalis was described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum in 1753, and given the specific epithet nivalis, meaning snowy (Galanthus means with milk-white flowers). This narrow-leaved snowdrop, with its delicate white hanging flowers, has become very popular in cultivation and is commonly planted in gardens and parks. It is now a familiar sight even in the British Isles and northern France where it is not native.

Medicinal Uses

The common snowdrop contains an alkaloid, galanthamine, which has been approved for use in the management of Alzheimer’s disease in a number of countries. Galanthamine is also used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system. Galanthus nivalis is also an emmenagogue, and as such it stimulates or increases menstrual flow and so can induce an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. Snowdrop lectin (GNA; Galanthus nivalis agglutinin) is also being studied with regard to its potential activity against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

Genus: 
Galanthus

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