Snowdrops

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There is one plant popping up all over the place and refuses to be beaten back by freak snow storms and deep frosts. With a name that roughly translates to "milk flower of the snow," snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) have been fighting their way towards the sun as early as late February.

Snowdrops are native to a wide swath of the European continent. Like many of our spring ephemerals, they love moist, rich forests and will often escape into the surrounding environment. Because of this, snowdrops have become commonplace in temperate areas around the world. They reproduce mainly by division of their bulbs. Pollination in this species is poor, which is attributed to the lack of pollinating insects present during the cold months that this species flowers. Bumblebees are some of the few insects up early enough to take advantage of their white blooms. 

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Contrary to its apparently ubiquitous presence around the globe, the IUCN lists snowdrops as near threatened in their home range. The genus Galanthus contains some of the most heavily collected and traded wild bulbs in the world. Pressure from the horticultural trade coupled with habitat destruction and climate change may push this species to the brink of extirpation throughout Europe in the not-so-distance future. When one of the hardiest plant species in the world is struggling to survive, we need to rethink our actions.

Photo Credit: Gideon Chilton (http://bit.ly/1enUTUK)

Further Reading:

http://www.arkive.org/snowdrop/galanthus-nivalis/