Spring Tease: Winter Aconite & Snowdrop
March 9, 2013
I was thinking there had been entirely too much ice on Michigan in Pictures this week. Thankfully Michael shared this photo in the Absolute Michigan pool, saying:
NE Ann Arbor ~ At 41F. our first break towards Spring… Winter Aconite (yellow flowers) and Snow Drops (white flowers)
Wikipedia explains that Eranthis (winter aconite) is a genus of eight species of flowering plants in the Buttercup family:
They are herbaceous perennials growing to 10–15 cm (4–6 in) tall. The flowers are yellow (white in E. albiflora and E. pinnatifida), and among the first to appear in spring, as early as January in mild climates, though later where winter snowpack persists; they are frost-tolerant and readily survive fresh snow cover unharmed. The leaves only expand fully when the flowers are nearly finished; they are peltate, 5-8 cm diameter, with several notches, and only last for 2-3 months before dying down during the late spring.
Species in this genus are spring ephemerals, growing on forest floors and using the sunshine available below the canopy of deciduous trees before the leaves come out; the leaves die off when the shade from tree canopies becomes dense, or, in dry areas, when summer drought reduces water availability.
The very first bulb to cheerfully announce spring is the snowdrop. As the last winter snow melts, carpets of delicate white flowers emerge through last year’s fallen leaves. Snowdrops will reliably return year after year despite Mother Nature’s most challenging winters. The botanical name, Galanthus, comes from the Greek words Gala meaning “milk” and anthos meaning “flower.” They will thrive in the rich, moist soil usually found in the shade provided by deciduous trees. Few bulbs can tolerate shade, but snowdrops develop in the winter sun well before the leaves of trees and shrubs have expanded. Their flowers last for several weeks beginning in early March and persisting through the cool days of spring in early April. Once planted, Galanthus require no maintenance.
One of the most treasured features of this easy-to-grow perennial is its ability to propagate on its own and develop into large masses. It is this trait that gives snowdrops the label “good naturalizer.” Many other popular bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, and alliums flower beautifully the first few seasons, but eventually weaken and disappear. Galanthus may be left undisturbed for years to form large, densely packed colonies.
Read on for much more including planting tips for Michigan and a bunch of photos.