Galanthus elwesii is named after Henry John Elwes, a renowned British botanist (1,2). The plant is one of the more robust and beautiful snowdrop species and quite easy to grow. It’s a large snowdrop, with scapes generally reaching a height of 9-18cm and leaves of 5,5-25 x 2-3,4cm. These characteristics lend it a prominent place in the collection of many snowdrop fans, leading to a plethora of named cultivars. It’s the primary example of a supervolute vernation species (also see the genus article).
The markings of the ‘drop are variable. Variants with a single mark are known as G. elwesii var. monostictus, some of which even flower in autumn (e.g. cultivar ‘Barnes’). The species can be found in the wild in Turkey, Bulgaria, the Balkans and Ukraine, where it prefers colder, north-facing, shaded parts of mountain ranges at heights of 800-1600m. It generally flowers between February and May in nature.
In Turkey, huge quantities of bulbs were harvested from the wild and exported to the Netherlands for distribution further into Europe, leading the species to decrease in nature during the 1980s. Fortunately, limits were placed on the amount of exportable bulbs, protecting the species in the wild. Due to these huge quantities, despite the small fraction bulbs that established themselves, the species is only second to G. nivalis in its presence in cultivation.
- Galanthus elwesii. Galanthus wild species. CITES Bulbs.
- Freda Cox. Gardener’s guide to snowdrops. Crowood 2013.