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Премия рунета 2017

A Snowdrop Day: Four Endangered Species

17 april 2018
On the eve of the Snowdrop Day, celebrated on April 19, WWF-Russia drafted a shortlist of the most rare, threatened, and endangered snowdrop species that occur in Russia.

Snowdrop (Lat. - Galanthus) is a herald of spring and symbol of hope for the coming warmth. One of the earliest forest primroses in all countries is invariably associated with the arrival of the warm season. Depending on the species and climatic zone, flowering snowdrops can be found in the wild in the period from December-January to March-April. In the highlands, flowering times are shorter and closer to the summer. However, the snowdrop is honored in April; the holiday itself was established in 1984 in England, where the peak of flowering of these perennial small-bulbed plants is in mid-April.

The snowdrop quickly and successfully reproduces both by seeds, and bulb division, which is why most often in the woods you can see flower "islets". The snowdrop can be spread around at long distances by ants that carry the seeds away from their "native" field. In general, they are unpretentious forest flowers, but the best conditions for them are soil and litter looseness, as well as its sufficient moisture throughout the year, and especially during flowering. Approximately 3-4 weeks after blooming, its aboveground part dies and it becomes almost impossible to find the flower in the grass.

The snowdrop can be seen in forest glades and edges, prevailingly in deciduous forests, as well as on the banks of rivers and in meadows in southern and central Europe, the Caucasus and Asia Minor. Seven out of 20 wild species are encountered in the territory of Russia.

"Many species of snowdrops are very similar and their appearance differs only in certain details of the structure. It can be difficult even for specialists to determine the species. However, these difficulties do not matter much, as all kinds of snowdrops growing in our country are formally protected. Their ecological features are very similar, as are the reasons for their vulnerability, and therefore the measures for their protection", says Konstantin Kobyakov, WWF-Russia Forest Program coordinator for high conservation value forests and author of the book "Rare forest plants of Russia".

Galanthus woronowi
(с) Vladimir Skvortsov

Out of seven species growing in Russia, four are listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as rare, threatened, or endangered. Let's get to know them better:

  • Caucasian snowdrop (Lat. - Galanthus caucasicus). Rare, endemic species for the Caucasus. Occurs in mountain forests of the middle and lower zone and on their edges, and also in thickets of bushes in Stavropol Region, the Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia-Alania, Adygea and Chechnya. Reaches a height of 10-20 cm. The flowers are white with six single drooping petals on a cylindrical stem. During flowering, the leaves are covered with a wax coating, and after flowering give a greasy sheen. Blooms from February to April.
  • Narrow-leaved snowdrop (Lat. - Galanthus angustifolius). The species is under threat of extinction. It occurs in the forests of the lower and middle zones of the mountains and on their edges, on loose humus soil in Stavropol Region, the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia-Alania, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. Reaches a height of 10-20 cm. The flowers are white with six petals on a single long stalk. Blooms in February-April.
  • Folded snowdrop (Lat. - Galanthus plicatus). The species is under threat of extinction. It is found in shady broad-leaved woods of Krasnodar Region and in the Crimea. Reaches a height of 25-30 cm. Three single outer oval white petals reach 25 mm in length, the inner petals are half as long and are have a green spot. Another feature of this species is a strong smell of the flowers. The flowering time is in March – April.
  • Voronova snowdrop (Lat. - Galanthus woronowii). The species is under threat of extinction. Occurs in shady broad-leaved forests of the lower and middle mountain belts, among bushes, on edges, often on the rich and well moistened soils in Krasnodar Region and Stavropol Region and the Republic of Adygea. Reaches a height of 20-25 cm. Three outer white single drooping petal of the flower reach 20 mm in length. The inner petals with a length of about 11 mm have a small green truncated spot. Flowering in February-March (under favorable weather conditions, even in January), and fruit bearing in April.

Wild-growing species of snowdrops in our country are found only in the Caucasus and, unfortunately, almost everywhere they are barbarically cut off for bouquets or their bulbs are dug out.

"In addition to direct destruction due to digging for making bouquets, the snowdrops die during the economic development of the territory where they grow as well. Often it results from illiterate forest management when the company log intact forests and does not care about biological diversity conservation. WWF-Russia conserves intact forests of our country, which are home to many rare species of plants and animals. However, success can only be achieved by joining forces. Environmentally responsible behavior should be shown by everybody, including timber companies, and the authorities involved in the development of standards for biodiversity conservation during logging", says Konstantin Kobyakov.

On the eve of the fire hazardous season of picnics and hikes, WWF-Russia reminds of competent behavior in the forest, observance of fire safety and calls for careful treatment of nature, in particular of the fragile snowdrop flowers. The ecologists urge not to trample and pluck flowers, not to dig bulbs out and not to support sellers of one-day bouquets of snowdrops. If you witness selling bouquets of snowdrops or other protected primroses, report the crime to the local police department or the Department of environmental management and protection. You can admire these beautiful flowers in the wild. It will save rare, threatened, and endangered species for the future generations.

Headline photo: (c) Vladimir Skvortsov 

For additional information please contact
High Conservation Value Forest Projects Coordinator