Quick facts

Common names: snowdrop, common snowdrop, flower of hope

Scientific name: Galanthus nivalis

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Origin: non-native

Flowering season: January to March

Habitat: woodland, parks, gardens, grassland

What do snowdrops look like?

Standing around 7–15 cm tall, snowdrops have white bell-shaped flowers at the end of an erect flowering stem with two to three leaves.

Leaves: narrow to linear in shape, smooth and dull grey-green in colour.

Flowers: lack petals and are composed of six white flower segments known as tepals (they look like petals). The inner three tepals are smaller and have a notch in the tip, with a green upturned ‘v’ pattern visible.

Not to be confused with: summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum). Unlike snowdrop, this flower has a green spot marking on the end of each petal and the petals are of equal length; spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is also similar but all of its petals have a yellow-green mark on the end, which are absent on snowdrops.

Where to find snowdrops

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.

Credit: Alind Srivastava / WTML

Value to wildlife

As they flower so early, snowdrops do not rely on pollinators to reproduce. Instead, they spread via bulb division. However, they may still be visited by bees and other insects on a particularly warm day.

Did you know?

During the Second World War, British citizens nicknamed American soldiers 'snowdrops' due to their green uniforms with a white cap or helmet.

Mythology and symbolism

The flowering of snowdrops is one of the first signs that winter is drawing to an end. As a result, the flower has long been viewed as a symbol of hope for better times ahead. However, to see a single snowdrop flower was once viewed as a sign of impending death and it was considered bad luck to take one into a house.

The flower has a long association with the Christian festival of Candlemas and was often used to decorate churches during the celebration. This earned it the alternative name of Candlemas Bells.

Credit: John Martin / Alamy Stock Photo

Uses of snowdrops

Traditionally, snowdrops were used to treat headaches and as a painkiller. In modern medicine a compound in the bulb has been used to develop a dementia treatment.

Did you know?

Snowdrop bulbs are poisonous if eaten.

Spot the changing seasons

Have you seen the first ladybird of the year or the last swallow of summer? Tell us about the nature near you and help scientists track the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Take part in our Nature's Calendar survey