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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 26 | Liliaceae

47. Galanthus Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 288. 1753; Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 140. 1754.

Snowdrop, perce-neige [Greek gala, milk, and anthos, flower, alluding to the color of the flowers]

Gerald B. Straley† & Frederick H. Utech

Herbs, perennial, scapose, from brown, tunicate, ovoid to globose bulbs; offset bulbs often present. Leaves 2(–3), basal, opposite, with sheathing blade, vernation flat and parallel, or convolute; nonsheathing blade erect to recurving at maturity, grayish green, linear-oblanceolate, glaucous; sheathing blade white, tubular, membranous, enclosing leaf bases and scape. Scape erect in flower, prostrate in fruit, green, solid. Inflorescences pendulous, 1-flowered, spathaceous; spathe bracteate, membranous; bracts 2, connate, split on 1 side. Flowers nodding, fragrant; perianath 2.5 cm or shorter; tepals 6, distinct, unequal; outer tepals spreading, white, narrowly obovate to almost orbicular, larger than inner; inner tepals overlapping, appearing tubular, green-spotted at apex only or apex and base, straight to semiorbicular, apex notched; stamens 6, inserted at bases of tepals, distinct; anthers basifixed, longer than filaments, bases lobed, apices tapered, dehiscense introrse, via terminal slits; ovary inferior, green, 3-locular, globose, septal nectaries present; style, white, unbranched, filiform; stigma indistinct to minutely capitate; pedicel wiry, short, slender. Fruits capsular, green, globose, fleshy, dehiscence loculicidal. Seeds 18–36, light brown, 3.5 mm, oblong to obtuse, elaiosomes fleshy. x = 12.

Species 14–17 (2 in the flora): introduced; Europe, sw Asia (Asia Minor, Iranian Caucasus, and Caspian Sea regions); introduced and naturalized elsewhere.

A number of Galanthus species, especially G. nivalis, are commonly cultivated for their late- winter and early-spring flowers, which emerge through the snow. Species of Galanthus are sometimes confused with Leucojum, snowflakes, a spring-flowering relative. The plants of Leucojum are usually taller, bear 2–3 flowers per stem, and their tepals are all equal.


Davis, A. P. 1999. The Genus Galanthus. Portland. Stern, F. C. 1956. Snowdrops and Snowflakes—A Study of the Genera Galanthus and Leucojum. London. Yeo, P. F. 1975. The hybrid origin of some cultivated snowdrops (Galanthus–Amaryllidaceae). Baileya 19: 157–162.

1 Inner tepals blotched with green at base and apex or with green stripe from base to apex; leaves convolute within basal sheath.   1 Galanthus elwesii
+ Inner tepals blotched with green at apex only; leaves flat and parallel within basal sheath.   2 Galanthus nivalis

Lower Taxa


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