Galanthus nivalis is the snowdrop species widely seen in European gardens, woodlands and uncultivated ground. It hails from Southern Europe and has been naturalised in Britain since the 1500s. Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, established Galanthus as the scientific name for snowdrops and called this species nivalis, which is Latin for snowy.

The bulb of Galanthus nivalis has been recorded since the ancient Greek times to have mind-altering effects. However, it was only in the 1950s that a Bulgarian pharmacologist first extracted the active compound, galantamine, from the plant after observing villagers rubbing their foreheads with both its leaves and bulbs for medicinal purposes. Since then galantamine has been scientifically proven to increase cerebral function and to treat minor to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Galantamine is also used to treat injuries relating to the nervous system. Galanthus nivalis is the source of a lectin (a type of protein that binds to carbohydrates) that is being investigated for its anti-viral and anti-tumour potential.

As you walk around the Garden, take notice of Galanthus nivalis in the shady borders. They will be amongst many other Galanthus species and cultivars in the World Woodland Garden and Embankment Beds.

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Heralding Spring Trail Map