These delicate flowers are actually hardy plants that permeate the snows and frosts of the early year to brave the cold, wintery air. The scientific name, Galanthus, comes from the Greek for “milk flower”. How beautiful and fitting is that?!
In terms of reproduction, they are vigorous and spread rapidly through bulb offsets as well as by seed dispersal and animal and water disturbances. They tend to be found near human habitation and former monastic sites. Because they flower so early in the year, they can thrive under deciduous trees who won’t yet have leaves to block the sun. This gives the snowdrop a specific niche in the woodland that many plants would not be able to survive in. The more I find out about this plant, the hardier and sturdier they seem to be, despite their delicate appearances. To push through the snow, they have tough, hardened leaves which can also push through frozen soil. This is a determined, resolute plant. The embodiment of power and fragility, strength and softness.
Naturally, given their timing and their colouring, they are celebrated as a sign of spring and the associated purity, birth and fertility. As the flower of January, they bring hope and remind us that better days are coming. They are the symbol of candlemas and are dedicated to the virgin mary.
Apparently, when Adam and Eve were forced out of the garden of eden, they entered a world of winter. Here an angel blow on some snowflakes which turned into snowdrops and were a sign that better things were coming and a lesson that there is always hope, even in the darkest winter.
According to flowermeaning.com, a German legend tells how the snowdrop made a deal with a snowflake:
When God created snow, he gave it the task of visiting the flowers of the earth to gather colors. All the flowers refused, until the snow visited the gentle snowdrop. Seeing that the snowdrop was a kind and generous soul, the snow decided to make a deal. In exchange for her color, the snow agreed to allow the snowdrop to bloom first every spring. The delicate snowdrop agreed and cheerfully blooms amid the snow each spring.
Despite this link to pureness and life, the snowdrop is actually poisonous and can cause death. A single snowdrop flower is said to signify impending death and should never be bought into the house (possibly because it could be mistaken for something edible?).
For me, the main message from the snowdrop is that of holding duality; life and death, strength and vulnerability.
None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research. Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year. Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.