Devon Wildlife Trust Perhaps the first sign that spring is just around the corner is the snowdrop poking its way through the frosted soil of a woodland, churchyard or garden. From January, look for its famous nodding, white flowers.

The snowdrop is a familiar spring flower, coming into bloom in January and flowering until March. Despite its long history in the UK, however, it may not actually be native here; it is a native of damp woods and meadows on the continent, but was not recorded as growing wild in the UK until the late 18th century. Nevertheless, it has certainly become naturalised from garden escapees, and white snowdrop 'valleys' can now be seen across the country.

How to identify

The snowdrop displays nodding, white flowers, each carried on a single stem. The narrow, grey-green leaves appear around the base of the stem. Snowdrop plants often form clumps.  


Woodland Trust One of the first signs of spring. While not native to these shores, these hardy flowers have become a familiar indicator of the shifting seasons and a sure sign that warmer weather is on its way. 

Snowdrops are found across the UK. They favour damp soil and are often found in broadleaved woodland and along riverbanks, but can also be seen in parks, gardens, meadows and scrub. The species normally flowers in January and February, but there are an increasing number of December flowerings being recorded and even the occasional November sighting.

Tell us when you first see a flowering snowdrop and you’ll be helping us understand the impact of climate change on wildlife.

Snowdrops are not native to the UK, although exactly when they were introduced is unclear. It’s thought they may have been grown as an ornamental garden plant as early as the 16th century, but were not recorded in the wild until the late 18th century. The snowdrop’s native range is mainland Europe. 


Snowdrop in Chulmleigh 23rd January 2021 (Photo: Grant Sherman)


Devonshire Association The Botany Section was founded in 1908 to promote the study and enjoyment of Devon’s wild plants, including bryophytes (mosses), lichens and fungi.


Plantlife This wildflower's bobbing white blooms are a much-anticipated sight in the winter months. Snowdrops are able to survive the cold winter months and flower so early, because they grow from bulbs. Although formally considered "native", snowdrops are actually recent arrivals. It's first known cultivation was in 1597 and was first recorded in the wild in 1778. It is widely naturalised with little change thought to be occurring. 



Royal Horticultural Society Galanthus are dwarf bulbous perennials with linear or strap-shaped leaves, and solitary, often honey-scented, nodding flowers with 3 white outer tepals and 3 smaller inner ones often marked with green

G. nivalis is a perennial to 15cm, with narrow, grey-green leaves and solitary, nodding, fragrant white flowers 2.5cm in length, the inner segments marked with green at the tip 

Snowdrops can be planted in drifts in the border around shrubs, preferring a humus-rich soil that is not waterlogged, but they do not like to dry out in the summer months and they need to be kept cool and undisturbed.

Over time, clumps can get congested, which can affect flowering, so we tend to divide larger clumps every five years after they have finished flowering when they are ‘in the green’. There are different thoughts on the benefits of planting ‘in the green’ but it has always proved successful for us as demonstrated by the clumps gradually expanding into drifts. 


National Biodiveristy Network The NBN Atlas is a collaborative project that aggregates biodiversity data from multiple sources and makes it available and usable online. It is the UK’s largest collection of freely available biodiversity data.

Galanthus nivalis 


Wikipedia Galanthus nivalis, the snowdrop or common snowdrop, is the best-known and most widespread of the 20 species in its genus, Galanthus. Snowdrops are among the first bulbs to bloom in spring and can form impressive carpets of white in areas where they are native or have been naturalised. They should not be confused with the snowflakes, in the genera Leucojum and Acis. 

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