A Snowdrop Day: Four Endangered Species
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".
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 –
- 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.
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