Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

The Snowdrop Theory


The Winter Clues Competition draws to a close tomorrow (still 24 hours to enter). For reasons I will explain in a few weeks, I’m not going to be able to give an update about that for a few weeks, including announcing the winner. But I will, I promise. Very cryptic I know, but I will explain.

Instead, today, let me celebrate the end of the competition by sharing a little theory. I have recently come across a theory that is bound to be very old, but which remains sparkling and new to me and I like it.

Snowdrops, galanthus nivalis,  were introduced to this country by visiting Italian monks in the 1st Century or by others in the 16th Century, depending on your sources. Either way they were cultivated, which means they were never found in the wild.

The first noted example of a snowdrop being found in the wild in the UK was in the 1770s. The Snowdrop Theory goes like this: the wild snowdrops, which can now be found in most parts of the UK except the far north, are all garden escapees.

What benefit is this to the natural navigator?

Well, if snowdrops reproduced on the wind, perhaps not very much. But as they grow from bulbs, new plants are unlikely be found far from their ancestors without the help of humans. This means that if you find a colony of snowdrops in the woods, you should be able to follow them back to a garden or other site where they have been deliberately planted.

If you find yourself lost in a wild wood and totally disorientated in the early months of the year, then snowdrops should form a trail out of the wilderness and towards civilisation. If this theory passes the test, then I suspect that this is a flower that Hansel and Gretel would have approved of.

I plan to test this theory over the coming weeks. I’d love to hear from anybody else who also tests it.

It would also be great to hear from anyone who knows of any other plants that might fit into a similar wild theory.

More on navigating using snowdrops