Galanthus nivalis

Botanical Name : Galanthus nivalis
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Amaryllidoideae
Genus:     Galanthus
Species: G. nivalis
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade:     Angiosperms
Clade:     Monocots
Order:     Asparagales

Synonyms:  Fair Maid of February. Bulbous Violet.

Common Name: Snowdrop or Common snowdrop

Habitat :Galanthus nivalis native to a large area of Europe, from Spain in the west, eastwards to Ukraine. It is native to Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine. It  is now widely grown in gardens, particularly in northern Europe, and is widely naturalised in woodlands in the regions where it is grown. It is considered naturalised in Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and parts of North America (Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Ontario, Massachusetts, Alabama, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Washington State, New York State, Michigan, Utah, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina).

Although often thought of as a British native wild flower, or to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, it is now thought that it was probably introduced much later, perhaps around the early sixteenth century.

Description:
Galanthus nivalis  are perennial, herbaceous plants which grow from bulbs. It grows to around 7–15 cm tall, flowering between January and April in the northern temperate zone (January–May in the wild). Each bulb generally produces two linear, or very narrowly lanceolate, greyish-green leaves and an erect, leafless scape (flowering stalk), which bears at the top a pair of bract-like spathe valves joined by a papery membrane. From between them emerges a solitary, pendulous, bell-shaped white flower, held on a slender pedicel.
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The flower consists of six tepals, also referred to as segments. The outer three are larger and more convex than the inner ones. The inner flower segments are usually marked on their outer surface with a green, or greenish-yellow, V or U-shaped mark (sometimes described as “bridge-shaped”) over the small “sinus” (notch) at the tip of each tepal. The inner surface has a faint green mark covering all or most of it. Occasionally plants are found with green markings on the outer surface of the outer tepals.

Galanthus nivalis herbs reach their blooming peak between January and April in northern, temperate climates. After that, their flowers mature into fruits which ripen as three-celled capsules enclosing whitish seeds that contain substances appreciated by ants (who are also the ones responsible for the seed distribution).

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The six long, pointed anthers open by pores or short slits. The ovary is three-celled, ripening into a three-celled capsule. Each whitish seed has a small, fleshy tail (the elaiosome) containing substances attractive to ants which distribute the seeds. The leaves die back a few weeks after the flowers have faded.

Galanthus nivalis  is the best-known and most widespread of the 20 species in its genus, Galanthus. Snowdrops are among the first bulbs to bloom in spring and can form impressive carpets of white in areas where they are native or have been naturalised. They should not be confused with snowflakes (Leucojum and Acis.)

Medicinal Uses:
Galanthus nivalis content of galathamine is mostly responsible for its therapeutic action, very much appreciated in the treatment of traumatic injuries of the nervous system. It cannot cure Alzheimer disease, but it can at least prevent it or slow down its evolution. Being a strong inhibitor of cholinesterase, this alkaloid is also part of chemically-produced drugs used in anesthetics, but also in post-surgery treatment of myasthenia, myopathy, or atonia occuring either in the gastro-intestinal tract or in the bladder.

Since the alkaloid spectrum contained in Galanthus nivalis is considerably large, their medicinal effects also vary a lot: some of them are virostatic, or respiratory analeptics, while others are effective tumor-inhibitors. Galanthus nivalis homeopathic derivates are also emmenagogues, meaning that they stimulate the blood flow in the pelvic area, thus increasing the menstrual flow and possibly inducing abortion in early stages of the preganncy.

Lectin (or agglutinin) is currently being studied for its likely action against HIV (human immunodefficiency virus). Other medicinal uses of the plant have reportedly treated symptoms of polyneuropathy, neuritis, myelitis, thrombosis, thromboembolism, and spine injuries

Known Hazards:  This plant is no longer used as such in therapies, due to its relatively high levels of toxicity. Only chemically-extracted substances are used in standard medication, to avoid the occurence of adverse reactions such as digestive tissue irritation and stomach pain. Oral ingestion of parts of Galanthus nivalis reportedly leads to poisoning, manifested through diarrhea, colic, vomiting, and nausea.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/snowdr59.html
http://www.liveandfeel.com/articles/galanthus-nivalis-improves-memory-and-has-many-other-health-benefits-3335
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galanthus_nivalis

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