Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

A Snowdrift

I can’t claim these are the first snowdrops I’ve seen this year but they are certainly the most impressive.

This drift is behind the little church at the head of Bransdale, along a beck with no name.

In a month’s time, the bank will be dominated by daffodils, only to be overtaken by bluebells a few weeks later.

Snowdrops are native to more the warmer climes of Europe and were introduced into Britain as a garden plant. They were first recorded in England in 1597 when they had “taken possession … many years past”1Wikipedia Contributors (2022). Galanthus. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galanthus#:~:text=Gerard%20in%20England%20in%201597 [Accessed 3 Mar. 2022].. At that time, Elizabeth I had been on the throne for 39 years.

Once escaped over the garden wall, snowdrops quickly spread in the wild. Surprising really as most varieties propagate by vegetative division of the bulbs rather than by seed. This is because they are often sterile and unable to set seed.

Even when a variety is able to seed, production is poor because, unlike back in their native home countries, there are few pollinating insects around in January and February to fertilise the flowers in Britain.

Snowdrops have, however, another trick up there sleeves.

Each seed has a small oil and protein-rich appendage called an ‘elaiosome‘ that is attractive to ants which take them down into their nests as food for their developing larvae2Wikipedia Contributors (2022). Galanthus. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galanthus#:~:text=attractive%20to%20ants%2C%20which%20distribute%20the%20seeds [Accessed 3 Mar. 2022].. The seeds themselves remain untouched and so are both dispersed to new locations and conveniently planted underground.

I am not so sure ants are particularly active during early spring.







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