Nature Diary: Snowdrops for spring

In floriography, snowdrops are symbols of hope and consolation

Monks are credited with first bringing snowdrops from Rome to Ireland. Photograph: Getty

Monks are credited with first bringing snowdrops from Rome to Ireland. Photograph: Getty

 

Heralded as the first flowers of the year, snowdrops are a welcome reminder that spring is on its way.

In floriography, the ‘language of flowers’, snowdrops are symbols of hope and consolation. They are the birth flowers of those born in January and an active ingredient (galantamine) from snowdrops is used in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

But the lines from the William Wordsworth poem really give them the status they deserve.

“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 . . . /Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,/ And pensive monitor of fleeting years!” 

Originally a native of southern Europe, snowdrops grow easily in Irish gardens. Monks are credited with first bringing these fragile-looking yet resilient white flowers from Rome to England and Ireland as they were first planted around monasteries.

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