The snowdrop flower – or galanthus – is often described as having the appearance of three drops of milk spilling forth from a bright green stem. Snowdrops are a genus of about 20 species, and come from the amaryllidaceae family. Unlike many other flowers – which are generous with their color variations – snowdrop flowers only come in a sophisticated, creamy white hue. Another thing that makes these flowers so unique is that they may sometimes flower early, often poking through layers of snow. Because of their simplicity and lack of major variation, there are really only two species that are regularly cultivated. These are galanthus elwesii, or the giant snowdrop, and galanthus nivalis, or the common snowdrop.
The snowdrop flower – which is well loved not only for its simple beauty, but for its distinct, honey-like scent – has a surprisingly varied history in both ancient folklore and more modern storytelling. Snowdrops have been used as inspiration for stories like Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snowdrop,’ which describes the flower as being the first to arrive in spring. Another such story appears in Lenore E. Mulets’ book “Flower Stories.” In this book a whole chapter is dedicated to describing the flower and its growth in a charming, fairytale-like narrative. In myth, the snowdrop flower has a slightly more foreboding tale to tell. Due to their low growing patterns and the fact that they were regularly seen springing up in cemeteries, many Victorians felt that these flowers were representative of death. In fact, many people felt it was bad luck to bring them into the homes of those who were ill, as they were considered bad luck. On a more positive note, the snowdrop flower also appears in biblical stories. One such being that of the snowdrop bursting forth to comfort Adam and Eve after they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
Although snowdrop flowers were once considered a bad omen, today they are thought to be a simple, delicate symbol of hope, purity and consolation. As gifts, these flowers are given for a variety of reasons. They may be a simple expression of sympathy, or an elegant symbol of optimism and virtue which can be presented to a bride or wedding party. Sometimes, though, these flowers are given solely for their lovely appearance, and may be presented alongside more colorful blossoms in a large arrangement or small bouquet. They may also be given as potted flowers, or even pressed plants.