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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Leucojum vernum


Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class Liliopsida (Monocotyledons)
Subclass Liliidae
Order Liliales
Family Liliaceae (Lily family)
Genus Leucojum L. (snowflake)
Species Leucojum vernum L. (spring snowflake,
St. Joseph's Bells)

A very ornamental plant. The flowers have a powerful scent that is likened by some to hawthorns and by others to violets.

Leucojum derives from the Greek for "white violet [the flower]". The snowflakes are native to southern Europe, from the Pyrenées to Romania and western Russia, but they have been introduced and have naturalized in many other areas, including the east coast of North America. They have narrow, strap-like, dark green leaves. The flowers are small and bell-shaped, white with a green (or occasionally yellow) spot at the end of each petal. They have a slight fragrance. It is in flower from March to April, and the seeds ripen in July. The scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Two varieties of Leucojum vernum are known: L. vernum var. carpathicum originates from the eastern part of its natural range and is a larger plant with yellowish spots on its petals rather than green; L. vernum var. vagneri from Hungary is a robust plant, often with two flowers per stem.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.

The Summer Snowflake has a wider natural range, taking in Europe, southwest Asia and northern Iran, and growing in wetter habitats including damp woodland, riversides and swamps. Despite its common name it also flowers from March to May, though slightly later than the Spring Snowflake. It is a taller plant than Leucojum vernum, growing to around 60 cm (2 ft), but its flowers are smaller and are carried in an umbel of between three and seven. Its fleshy seed pods are inflated, allowing them to be dispersed by flood water.

Easily grown in ordinary garden soil. Prefers an open rich moist limy soil. Succeeds in shade or semi-shade. If naturalizing in short grass, a light, well-drained soil is essential. The dormant bulbs are fairly hardy and will withstand soil temperatures down to at least -5°c.

The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a well-drained soil in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification, it should then germinate in 2 - 4 weeks at 10°c. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed in the pots for their first year of growth. Give them an occasional weak liquid feed to ensure that they do not become nutrient deficient. Pot up the small bulbs when dormant, planting 2 - 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on for another 2 - 3 years before planting them out.

View More Beautiful Pictures of Leucojum vernum



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