The Snowdrop Flower: Its Meanings & Symbolism
The lovely snowdrop is one of the first flowers to appear in the spring as it works its way through the snow to bloom. These tiny flowers grow 3- to 4-inches tall and make an excellent ground cover in the garden. They can also be grown in pots or containers and can even be forced into bloom during the winter from bulbs.
What Does the Snowdrop Flower Mean?
The snowdrop flower has several meanings depending on the context. The most common meanings are:
- Consolation or Sympathy
Etymological Meaning of the Snowdrop Flower
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) earned their name from the combination of two Greek and Latin words. Galanthus, from the ancient Greek means milk white flower, while the Latin word nivalis means resembling snow. Carl Linnaeus classified the flower in 1753.
Symbolism of the Snowdrop Flower
The snowdrop flower has enjoyed a rich and varied history that includes several legends about how the flower came to be.
- Garden of Eden: According to legend, Eve was distraught after God cast her out of the Garden of Eden. God sent forth continuous snow and the earth was cold and barren. As Eve sat weeping, an angel appeared to comfort her. The angel caught a snowflake and breathed upon it. The snowflake fluttered to the earth and gave birth to the snowdrop. This delicate bloom came to symbolize hope and rebirth.
- German Legend: 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.
- Moldovan Legend: According to Moldovan legend, a fight between the Winter Witch and Lady Spring gave birth to the snowdrop. One year, the Winter Witch decided that she would not give up her reign of the earth when Lady Spring arrived. During the ensuing battle, Lady Spring pricked her finger and a drop of her blood fell to the earth. The blood drop melted the snow and up sprung a tiny snowdrop, a sign that Lady Spring had won the battle with the Winter Witch.
- Romanian Legend: According to this legend, each year the sun took on the form of a young girl as it returned to warm the land in the spring. One year, Winter refused to let go of his stronghold on the earth and took the young girl hostage. A Hero soon appeared to rescue his love from the grips of winter. A battle ensued, and the girl was set free, but not before Hero was wounded. As the sun began to rise into the sky, Hero fell to the ground and drops of his blood stained the earth. Tiny snowdrops burst forth in celebration of the return of spring. Romanians continue to honor the snowdrop as a symbol of the return of spring.
- Victorian Customs: Not all cultures view the snowdrop as a symbol of hope and rebirth. For the Victorians, the snowdrop represented death and even considered it bad luck to bring snowdrops inside the home. The sight of a single snowdrop bloom was considered an omen of death.
- United States: The snowdrop shares its symbolism with the carnation, as they are both the birth flower for the month of January.
Snow Flower Color Meanings
Snowdrops are one of the few flowers that only come in one color – white. This is probably why the snowdrop symbolizes purity, the traditional color meaning of white flowers.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Snowdrop Flower
- Medicinal: Galanthamine, an alkaloid found in the snowdrop flower, is currently approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s in several countries. It may be effective in treating diseases of the nervous system and is being studied for its effectiveness in treating HIV.
- Religious: The snowdrop flower is also used in religious ceremonies. In the 15th Century, monks planted snowdrops in the monastery gardens. During the Candlemas (Feb. 2), the picture of Virgin Mary was removed and snowdrop petals were displayed instead.
- Ornamental: Snowdrops are used as ornamental plantings, potted plants or cut flowers.
Special Occasions for the Snowdrop Flowers
Snowdrops are appropriate either as an expression of sympathy or as an expression of celebration. When presented to a wedding party, a floral display with snowdrops speaks of optimism and hope. They symbolize sympathy when given on a solemn occasion such as after death, loss or misfortune.
The Snowdrop Flower’s Message Is:
The snowdrop flower’s message is typically positive, signifying hope, rebirth and a bright future.