February Half-Term upon us and the Snowdrops coming into full bloom here are some little known facts and details about this amazing little flower – and where to see them in Dorset. Snowdrops are easily recognised flower and are to many one of the first signs of Spring. The plants Greek name Galanthus means “milk-like flower” as it is said to have the appearance of three drops of milk hanging from a stem.
Snowdrops are a symbol of hope with a connection going back to the Crimean War. The delicate pure white flower enchanted the soldiers, (who were bogged down in Crimea between 1853 and 1856), as it flowered it heralded spring and warmth following long winters on the battlefield.
White is certainly connected with the symbols of hope, consolation and purity however do not be deceived by the appearance of this pretty flower (the bulbs are similar to onions) as they are poisonous which is a good defence against being grazed by hungry deer or being dug up by squirrels seeking a tasty dinner, but it would be a nasty surprise to anyone who mistakes them for shallots!!!
As with many plants snowdrops carry superstition with them – although it is a very pretty, a single flower indicates a sign of impending death and should never be brought into the house. Probably as a result of being poisonous.
Many poisonous plants are used in medicines that a commonly used by us. Snowdrops are not to be left out and have a naturally occurring substance in them called galantamine. This is sold as a medication for Alzheimer’s disease under the name of Reminyl.
The value of a single Snowdrop Bulb – the record price for a single bulb is £350 sold in 2011 on an internet auction. To help protect Snowdrops from theft as they are under threat in certain areas they protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) rulings so selling of Snowdrop bulbs is strictly regulated. It is also illegal to collect the bulbs from the wild.
As Snowdrops flower at a time of year when there are few pollinating insects around so to further the species each bulb multiplies when dormant (this is why they are so valuable) Though when the sun is warm enough for the bees to fly as Snowdrops are in flower these are some of the first plants to be pollinated and then produce seeds. This is where the foraging ant helps the Snowdrops as the seeds have a tasty covering and are taken by the ants to feed their larvae, successfully distributing the seeds to new locations.
Although there are many places where Snowdrops can be seen in Dorset I have selected 4 places that are certainly worth a visit during your stay:
1) Kingston Lacy – Wimborne Minster, Wimborne, BH21 4EA
2) Mapperton House – Mapperton, Beaminster, DT8 3NR
3) Forde Abbey – Chard, Somerset, TA20 4LU (OK just over the border)