Snowdrops are often the first sign of the coming spring. Their two Latin names, Galanthus nivalis meaning ‘milkflower’ and ‘snowlike’ describes them well, as does their less common but very apt name of ‘snow piercer’, most probably given because they push their way through frozen ground in midwinter, their growing tip protected by a tough sheath.
A bulb of the lily family, the snowdrop is thought to be native to Britain originally found in damp woods and meadows in the west and in Wales. Now naturalised elsewhere and cultivated since the middle ages, snowdrops are associated with abbeys and churchyards and are a Roman Catholic symbol of Candlemas, normally flowering around the time of the festival on 2nd February. A fitting emblem of purity for the celebration of the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.
In the Wychwood area of Oxfordshire, snowdrops were also planted in lines to mark the path to outside privies (toilets)!
Happy hiking through the winter countryside