Snowdrops and Crocuses

There is one week left of winter, already the United Kingdom has had the wettest winter since proper records began in 1910. So spring is just around the corner.photo of snowdrop

The crocuses have been out for a little while, as mentioned in this post here. Last week the snowdrops joined them. Little droplets of white huddled together in clusters by the garden fence. Their posh name is Galanthus which is Greek for ‘milk flower’.

photo of snowdropsIt is a common flower across Europe, introduced to the UK in the sixteenth century, and is a welcome sign of spring. Their seeds are particularly tasty to ants, who in turn re-distribute them. Snowdrops also provide nectar for bumblebees and other insects waking from hibernation.

An alternative name for snowdrops is Candlemas bells, as they tend to appear at the start of February to coincide with the Christian festival of light. In Pagan times this was the festival of Imbolc, half way between the winter and spring equinoxes. This was a fire festival celebrated by lighting candles and marked the beginning of the lambing season. The snowdrop is the symbol of the fertility goddess Brigid who was honoured at Imbolc; she was later transformed into St Bridget.photo of snowdrops

Traditionally snowdrops are not picked to be displayed indoors as they are considered unlucky. Due to their white, shroud-like tepals and their proximity to the ground, they are associated with the dead. During World War II, the British referred to US military police as “snowdrops” because they wore white helmets.

photo of snowdropsRenowned nature lover, daffodil fan and poet, William Wordsworth saw fit to mention the humble snowdrop in his Two-Part Ballad 1888, the entirety of which you can read here, but this is the relevant part:

I began
My story early, feeling, as I fear,
The weakness of a human love for days
Disowned by memory, ere the birth of spring
Planting my snowdrops among winter snows

To wrap things up, here are some more photographs of the crocuses now that the blooms have opened up.

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17 thoughts on “Snowdrops and Crocuses

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  4. A correction on my last comment. The William Wadsworth, Poet, is not my 2nd great Grand Uncle after all. I have a William Wadsworth that is the 5th cousin of Henry Longfellow Wadsworth but he was not the poet. I was told this was the case but after checking found out my William Wadsworth was not one and the same. I would delete my comments but not sure how. I can only make calm for the one poet, and that was Longfellow. Sorry about that.

      • Thanks rambling. I would feel better if you deleted the conversation. I jumped the gun and didn’t check my facts before posting. My William, after checking, was a farmer in Lincolnville, ME. The family had several Williams. I heard years ago the he was related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I had never looked at his line that I can remember, just Henry’s line. Henry was the 4th great grandson of Christopher Wadsworth who landed in Boston Harbor 1632. He had a brother, William, who also made the trip. Longfellow was the 4th great grandson of Christopher. Christopher lived in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
        Thanks and take care.
        Alan

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