Spring Snowdrops

The first of February is Imbolc – the Gaelic festival marking the end of winter and the start of spring. Much of the vegetation still seems very much set in its midwinter torpor, but snowdrops are in full flower promising more signs of spring will follow in their wake.

Snowdrops are probably not native, but have been naturalised for so long that they have gathered many regional folk names including “February Fair-Maids”, “Eve’s Tear”, “dewdrops” and “Mary’s Tapers”. They are classified as ‘neophytes’ which quite literally means ‘new plant’ from the Greek néos meaning new, and phutón meaning plant. In the UK, neophytes are alien species which escaped into the wild after 1500 AD.

Snowdrops are often planted but will quickly naturalise if left to their own devices – they often grow well under trees and in woodland, but are equally at home in parkland and gardens.

There are several species of snowdrop you might find growing naturalised in the UK but the most common is Galanthus nivalis – shown in the photograph. The genus name ‘Galanthus’ derives from the Greek gála meaning milk and ánthos meaning flower; whilst the species name ‘nivalis’ is from the latin and means snow-like. Other species with bright grass-green leaves, and ornamental varieties such as double-flowers are also found planted, especially in churchyards and cemeteries.

Below are a series of photographs taken in Grantham Cemetery at the beginning of 2019.

IMG_4310
Arching snakelike amongst the winter grasses
IMG_4582
The appearance of snowdrops amongst the black silouettes of winter has led to them generating strong cultural associations with rebirth, new life and the end of winter
IMG_4603.jpg
Snowdrops naturally grow in clumps, commonly beneath trees and  in woodland, but the eye is always drawn to the one which stands apart
IMG_4853.jpg
This group shot reminded me of an old sepia-tinted family portrait from a century ago
IMG_4933.jpg
The flowers buds are often closed up when first emerge but the petals tend to spread and become more open as the flower matures
IMG_4959a.jpg
These shots were taken in Grantham Cemetery with the old lime lines forming the sillouetted branch patterns in the background
IMG_5036a.jpg
Grace under pressure – these flowers are well adapted to being buffeted by winter winds and rain whilst maintaining their composure
IMG_5175.jpg
The cultural association between snowdrops, new life and rebirth may be one of the reasons they are often found in cemeteries and churchyards – the fresh green leaves and snow-white flowers set against the dark cold stone commemorating lives past is a perfect juxtoposition

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s