Snowdrops growing on a snowy mountainside
Birth Flowers

The birth flower of January: Snowdrop

A group of snowdrops growing

On your birthday it’s not uncommon to receive a present featuring your birthstone or zodiac symbol. However, few people know about their birth flower. In this series, we’ll be looking at the birth flower of each month, according to Joseph Hammer-Pugstall’s The Language of Flowers.

If I had more patience, I would have waited until January to introduce you to begin this series. However, I am not. I was too excited to share them with you when I first dreamt up the idea. So we’re half way through and finally reaching January, and what a great little plant I have in store for you today.

Here in the UK, January marks the very middle of winter. The temperature fluctuates around zero and there is often a blanket of snow that drapes itself across the entire country for a day or two. In the south of England, we finally had it last weekend and my village is now filled with snow-people/snow-creatures and other wonderful creations.

When I think of January, I think of snow. Fitting, then, that the birth flower of this month is the dainty, white Snowdrop. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are perennial bulbous plants, meaning they have bulbs, from which they grow every year. The name Snowdrop may have originated from Germany, where it is also known as Snowdrop “Schneetropfen“, as it is reminiscent of tear-shaped pearl earrings of the same name.

A close-up of a Snowdrop, showing the green markings on the

These delicate, little flowers mark the arrival of a new year, and they’re best spotted in undisturbed land, such as woodlands and graveyards. Not only are the flowers beautiful, they are also very interesting. Instead of petals, the flowers have two whorls of tepals, which are petal-like structures.

The outer whorl is made up of three long, white tepals and the inner whorl is made up of three shorter, white tepals with green markings (which I think look like upside down hearts). These hearts are not only aesthetically pleasing, they also serve an important purpose to pollinators.

Nectar guides act as signposts on flowers, guiding pollinators to the centre of the flower, where they will be rewarded with nectar or another substance while pollinating the flower. In the case of Snowdrops, the green markings do exactly that, and help pollinators find the centre of the bell shaped flower. As well as this, the green markings allow for photosynthesis, providing energy for the flower and developing seeds [1].

While the little hearts prove important for both survival and reproduction, they also provide symbolism for us. In the Language of Flowers, Snowdrops are symbolic of hope and purity. A new year, untarnished by the last, filled with hope for all the new opportunities that come with it.

As I’ve mentioned before in my Road Trip series, one of my favourite places to find plants is in graveyards, because the ground is largely undisturbed and protected so lots of interesting things like to grow there. This year, I wandered through one of my local graveyards and happened upon a huge bed of Snowdrops. It’s a joy to me, every year, to see their return and feel the hope and joy they provide with their wonderful drooping flowers.

Thank you for reading this post! If you enjoyed it and want to support the blog, you can leave me a tip here. All the money I raise is going towards better camera equipment, so you can enjoy higher quality images and videos. To ensure you don’t miss February’s birth flower, be sure to follow Fronds with Benefits here, on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

Citations

[1] Aschan, G. & Pfanz, H. (2006). Why Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis L.) tepals have green marks? Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants.

Image credits

Snowdrops in the snow: sunflair 

Group of Snowdrops: Capri23auto 

Closeup of a Snowdrop: birgl

Underside of Snowdrop flower: S. Hermann & F. Richter 

4 thoughts on “The birth flower of January: Snowdrop”

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