Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign


Species of the Month

Below is a list of our previous 'Species of the Month'

Common Yew Tree
Witches' Butter
Hen Harrier
Eurasian Otter
Harbour Porpoise
Butterfiles of Ireland
Barn Owl



Snowdrops - Plúiríní Sneachta



Snowdrops - Plúiríní Sneachta - Galanthus nivalis


In Irish folklore it is said that when the snowdrop is seen it is the end of winter and the start of spring. While the Snowdrop is now a familiar wildflower in Ireland it originated from central and eastern Europe. The Latin name for Snowdrop Galanthus  literally means "milk-white flowers" arising from the fact that the snowdrop plant looks like three drops of milk hanging from a stem.


The flower grows to an average height of 15cm with three inner and 3 outer petals. It closes its petals at night and opens them in the morning to attract insects. Insects help to pollinate the flower allowing it to reproduce. Snowdrops like to grow in a moist soil with plenty of humus. They do not like hot, dry positions preferring part shade. Snowdrops can be seen in early spring and can be found at the moment beginning to peek up from its wintry sleep. Snowdrops grow from a hardy bulb just like daffodils and the crocus.  There are almost 20 different types of snowdrop, all are white, however they differ in size and shading.


An interesting fact is that the little snowdrop has been linked to important medicine that could help in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Galantamine, a medicine used today to treat Alzheimer's disease, occurs naturally in several members of the amaryllis family (snowdrop; narcissus; daffodil). This important medicine was first discovered in the innocent Snowdrop.


"Snowdrops and all the other ambassadors of spring remind us of the intrinsic optimism of nature, which rejuvenates every year, and it is so appropriate that a little spring flower gave us one of the main medicines to treat dementia. "Proff. Michael Heinrich (The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 273 No 7330 p905-906)

©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government