Freitag, 24. Februar 2012

Plant of the Day (February 24th, 2012) - Galanthus nivalis L.

Spring is dawning in Middle Europe and the first flowers of the year are appearing these days. One of these “Early flowers” is Galanthus nivalis L., from the Amaryllidaceae family; which is also the family of the Narcissus (Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.) In Germany, this plant is known as “Kleines Schneeglöckchen”, while in the English language, this species is called “Common snowdrop”

G. nivalis - habitus

It's a small herb, which can reach only a height between 8 and 20 centimetres (3.2 to 7.9 feet). The narrow and lineal leaves are blue-green. As a monocotyledon, the leaf-veins are parallel to each other. They have also a small keel in the middle. The stalk grows upright.

Parts of the root are transformed into a thick bulb

The inflorescence is a single, nodding flower at the top of the stalk. These flowers is typical for the monocotyledons. They are not divided into petals and sepals, but tepals. This structure is called Perigone.

G. nivalis - flower

Each Perigone consists of an inner and an outer circle of tepals with three tepals per circle. This is also another typical character of the monocotyledons. The outer tepals are pure white, while the inner ones are also white but with a green spot at the top.

The Gynoeceum is inferior and the ripe fruit a small seed, which is spread by ants. Flowering time is from December to April, but the main time is between January and February.

G. nivalis - habitus

G. nivalis is native to Middle and Southern Europe and can be found as wild form in the mountainous regions of South Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and the Balkans, where it grows in forests on lime. However over the years, the common snowdrop has become a very popular garden and ornamental plant and can be found today as harbinger of the spring in many other regions of the world (e. g. Northern Europe, North America).

These plants are normally not the wild form, but cultured forms for gardeners.

All parts of G. nivalis contain an alkaloid named Galanthin. It's part of a medicine, which is used to treat the symptoms of Morbus Alzheimer. On the other side, this Galanthin is also poisonous and can caused gastro-intestinal upsets.

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