Tuesday 4 January 2011

The Common Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and Optimism

It is not a great day outside today - lots of sharp showers interspersed by mostly grey skies, and although the strong southerly wind of this morning is dropping, it has been a day for staying indoors and catching up on a few tasks.  I have ventured out a few times however, and thought it would be good to include a picture of snowdrops in the garden pushing their way upwards and heralding at least the start of the end of what seems to have been a very long winter already. 

Incidentally, being unaware of the scientific name of the snowdrop, I visited the always excellent Wikipedia and came across the following: 

"Some snowdrop species are threatened in their wild habitats, and in most countries it is now illegal to collect bulbs from the wild. Under CITES regulations, international trade in any quantity of Galanthus, whether bulbs, live plants or even dead ones, is illegal without a CITES permit. This applies to hybrids and named cultivars as well as species. CITES does, however, allow a limited trade in wild-collected bulbs of just three species (G. nivalis, G, elwesii and G. woronowii) from Turkey and Georgia."

I am aware that large quantities of snowdrops have been harvested (commercially) from the colossal colonies in Bridgend Woods for a number of years, which would seem to be at odds with the above.  Does anyone have any more information about this?

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) is an international agreement between governments, drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The text of the convention was agreed upon in 1973, and CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants.


  1. Two points about the digging up of snowdrops. Firstly, it is legal provided you have the landowner's permission. Unfortunately, there are gangs digging them up in some parts of the country for sale on the black market. Secondly, I haven't been aware of any mass digging of them in Bridgend Woods for several years indeed not since 1980s when it was done by a commercial company from the mainland but I think it would be difficult now to find the sites where it was done - which was in widely distributed patches. If it has been done more recently, then I wasn't aware of it.

  2. Snowdrops have definitely been harvested in commercial quantities from Bridgend regularly in the recent past. I recall David Taylor writing to the Ileach about it (during my editorship) and I have myself seen the crates awaiting shipment, maybe three or four years ago. The recovery time of the snowdrops after harvesting in this instance seems remarkably good - they appear to return to their previous density after only a few years. Conditions must be absolutely perfect for them. I am certain that the Landlord is giving permission too - so there will be no problem in this instance. It does mean that the Wikipedia entry is misleading though... I guess it shows just how weak these directives are - it must be very difficult to police trade in snowdrops (or anything else) if all you have to show is that you have the permission of a 'landlord'!!