Each year when winter is ending I look for the first bulbs which will have flowers.
Two common bulbs are contesting to be number one. The Winter Aconit and the Snowdrop.
This is not a surprise when you translate their botanical names. The winter aconit is most often the Eranthis hyemalis. Er for spring and Anthos for flower in Greek, hyemalis is Latin for winter-flowering.
The snowdrop is named Galanthus nivalis, as the eranthis there is the root Anthos, and the gala which means white. The species nivalis is the most common and means “of the snow”.
It’s now really clear than these 2 plants have flowers early in the season.
The Eranthis doesn’t have a large choice of cultivars. There are a few species and except for the white Eranthis keiskei from Japan, all of them have yellow flowers. The Eranthis hyemalis is the species with the most cultivars. They look funny with this collar at the base of the flower, like a lion´s mane. They self spread easily by seeds. The carpet than they do after several years give us a feeling of light coming up from the ground.
Contrary to the Eranthis, the Galanthus have more species, about 20 and a huge number of cultivars. Probably more than 500. This bulb, which originally came from Europe and Western Asia, became really popular in the 19th century. Several people started to collect and create new cultivars, especially in the UK. They are known as “galanthophiles”. Some snowdrops are named according to the plantman who discovered or created them.
They are easy to identify, when you look at the flower from the side you see a head of a rabbit with floppy ears. The petals are the ears and the green marks are the teeth.
The best-known snowdrop is the species nivalis the one originating from Western and Central Europe. Some flowers are single others are double. Depending the species, they flower from January until May . One species have flowers in the Autumn (October-November), it’s named Galanthus reginae-olgae.
This year to my surprise not one of these two early spring flowers were the first on my balcony. It was the small Scilla mischtschenkoana, this misczenko squill is named after the Russian botanist who collected the bulbs. I’m used to seeing them 2, 3 weeks after the first snowdrops. I will write a post later about the genus squills when most of the species will flower.
This winter was so mild than most of the spring bulbs had flowers in the end of February. The crocus followed these three first bulbs after 10 days.