Galanthus nivalis 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Asparagales Amaryllidaceae

Scientific Name: Galanthus nivalis L.
Common Name(s):
English Bucaneve, Common Snowdrop, Flower of Hope, Snowdrop
French Galantine d'Hiver, Niveole, Perceneige
Spanish Flor de Nieve
Chianthemum nivale (L.) Kuntze
Galanthus alexandri Porcius
Galanthus imperati Bertol.
Galanthus melvillei Voss
Galanthus montanus Schur
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. atkinsii Mallett
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. carpaticus S.S.Fodor
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. hololeuca Celak.
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. majus Ten.
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. minus Ten.
Galanthus nivalis L. ssp. scharlockii Casp.
Galanthus scharlokii (Casp.) Baker
Galanthus umbricus Dammann
Taxonomic Notes: There are over 50 synonyms for Galanthus nivalis and this is due to several reasons: it is a variable species and throughout its distribution a number of taxa have been named in an attempt to record this variation; because of its long history in cultivation, a large number of taxa and cultivars have been recognised, leading to an even greater proliferation of names; and before many other species had been described, most Galanthus were referred to or associated with G. nivalis, probably because it was the best known and most ubiquitous species (Davis 1999).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2008-07-02
Assessor(s): Crook, V. & Davis, A.P.
Reviewer(s): Bilz, M. & Lutz, M.L.
Contributor(s): Melnyk, V.
Galanthus nivalis has an extensive distribution across Europe. There is some uncertainty, however, concerning the extent of native subpopulations due to widespread naturalisation. Many native subpopulations of G. nivalis occur in small relictual forest/woodlands and further loss of suitable habitats would lead to a definite decline in the species. Climate change is also likely to threaten G. nivalis due to the loss of suitable micro- and macro-habitats, where it is currently found. The species is listed as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or even Critically Endangered in several European countries and is included on nearly every country's Red List, suggesting the subpopulations in each of the countries are under threat. Harvesting and trade of the species is still occurring on a local scale, even though international trade is restricted by CITES. A rating of Near Threatened at the global level is suggested here due to all the above factors threatening the population as a whole, and the possibility of G. nivalis qualifying for a threat category in the near future (VU A3cd).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Galanthus nivalis is found throughout Europe: eastwards from the Pyrenees and northern Spain to the Ukraine, and southwards from Germany and Poland to southern Italy, Albania and northern Greece. Galanthus nivalis does not occur in Turkey or in the Caucasus mountains. It is doubtfully native in many locations in northwestern Europe above 50ºN latitude and is introduced and naturalised in the UK, Netherlands and other countries of northern Europe. Although found over a wide altitude range, most populations are found below 900 m asl.
Countries occurrence:
Austria; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Czech Republic; France; Germany; Greece; Italy; Moldova; Montenegro; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia (Kosovo); Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine
Canada (New Brunswick, Newfoundland I, Ontario); Netherlands; Norway; Sweden; United Kingdom; United States (Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia)
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):2314
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Native populations are believed to be relictual. Galanthus nivalis has been described as a relict species in the community of Valencia, Spain, where only three wild populations are known (Estrelles et al. 2001). Specific population data is available for several subpopulations, such as that in the East Carpathians (Budnikov and Kricsfalusy 1994):

Seed productivity studies of various populations of G. nivalis in the East Carpathians showed that population age structure remains stable due to regeneration through seed. Lowland-foothill populations appear to have the highest generative reproduction capacity. Lowland populations are also predominated by juvenile plants (about 40%), with mature plants in lower numbers. This is thought to be caused by a large amount of harvesting in these lowland areas. The upper mountain belt has a much higher percentage of mature (58%) than juvenile (11%) plants. These populations are considerably less “affected” by human pressures and likely to represent a “normal” age structure.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Most frequently occurring in moist conditions in deciduous woodland (Fagus silvatica, Quercus spp., Carpinus spp. etc.), and occasionally in coniferous woodland (Abies spp.). Also occurring in meadows, pasture, amongst scrub, near rivers and on stony slopes, particularly on calcareous soils.

Galanthus nivalis is a cross pollinating plant, but sometimes self-pollination takes place. It is pollinated by bees. Seeds have elaiosomes which are eaten by ants and they carry seeds through underground tunnels, helping to distribute them.

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is an outdoor ornamental spring flower widely grown around the world. It is one of the most popular of all cultivated bulbous plants. Galanthus nivalis is ubiquitous in cultivation, and hundreds of thousands of individuals are sold each year in horticultural trade.

Five alkaloids are contained in the above-ground part of G. nivalis and five also in the underground part. One is Galanthamin which is a strong poison and is used in medicine to relieve traumatic injuries to the nervous system. Another is Lycorine, which can also cause poisoning. Some individuals were poisoned after ingesting the bulbs as emergency food in Holland during World War II. Large amounts of bulbs need to be ingested to produce toxic reactions, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. The plant is also an emmenagogue - it promotes or increases menstrual flow or can induce an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

The mannose-binding specific lectin from Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin; GNA) is an effective insecticide against a wide variety of pest insects in the orders Homotera, Coleoptera and Lepidoptera with hardly any effect on non-target insects and soil bacterial communities. GNA is regarded as a potential insecticidal gene to be engineered into cultivated plants to increase the range of pests affected and to delay the development of insect resistance. Researchers have advocated transgenically transforming crops such as grapefruit, tobacco, tomato, potato, rice and wheat with GNA in order to increase their resistance against insect pests. Beyond being investigated for its uses as an insecticide, GNA lectin is also being investigated for its use in antibody and HIV research.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The survival of many Galanthus species is threatened in nature due to habitat destruction and collecting for the horticultural trade. Galanthus is the most heavily traded wild-collected bulb genus in the world. However, all species have been listed in CITES Appendix II since 1990 and trade in wild specimens is now heavily restricted. In addition, most nurseries are selling stock which has been raised from selected reliable clones, therefore avoiding the use of wild populations (Davis 1999). Reported trade in wild specimens of G. nivalis virtually ceased in 1995, with the cessation of reported exports from Hungary.

CITES-reported exports of live/bulbs of Galanthus nivalis:

Hungary: 200,000 (1992), 120,000 (1993), 150,000 (1994)
Romania: 41 kg (2000)
Turkey: 28,670 (1994) [not G. nvalis]
Netherlands: 300 (1995), 1,325 (1998), 219 (1999)

Some populations are more threatened than others, an example from Ukraine is outlined below:

Galanthus nivalis was formerly widely distributed in the East Carpathians but during the last decade its area has been considerably reduced as a result of destruction of its primary habitats (particularly the lowland-foothill zone where populations are close to populated areas or recreational areas) and direct destruction by picking its flowers and digging out bulbs. Threatened by extinction in certain areas, it has been included in the "List of Rare and Disappearing Species of the Ukrainian Flora" and listed as a species in decline in the “Red Data Book of the Ukraine” (1996). Galanthus nivalis is protected, and has been included in the national Red Data Books or lists of all the neighbouring countries of the Carpathians region – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Illegal exports of Galanthus plicatus and G. nivalis were reported from the Ukraine in 1997, however.


Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Galanthus nivalis is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), under Annex B of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation 318-2008 and on Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive 92/43.

Galanthus nivalis is included in the Red Data Books of the following countries: Austria (Niklfeld 1999), Italy (Conti et al. 1997), Italy / Sicily (Conti et al. 1997), Italy / Sardinia (Conti et al. 1997), Netherlands (van der Meijden 2000), Romania (1994), It has been assigned different threat ratings in several countries:
  • Endangered in Bulgaria (Petrova and Vladimirov 2009)
  • Vulnerable in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Šilić 1996), Czech Republic (Procházka 2001), and Germany (Ludwig and Schnittler 1996)
  • Near Threatened in Switzerland (Moser et al. 2002) and Slovakia (Feraková et al. 2001)
  • Rare in Greece (Phitos et al. 1995), Moldova (Postolache 1995) and Ukraine (Schelag-Soconko 1996)
  • Least Concern in Croatia (Nikolić and Topić 2005)

Galanthus nivalis populations are found in several protected areas throughout Europe including:
  • Volcan Montsacopa, Partial Nature Reserve, Spain
  • Massis del Montseny Nature Park, Spain
  • Micro-reserve network in Valencia, Spain
  • Ecrins National Park Buffer Zone, France
  • Poondri Protected Landscape Area, Czech Republic
  • Litovelske Pomoravi Ramsar Site, Czech Republic
  • Labske Piskovce Protected Landscape Area, Czech Republic
  • Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria
  • Rila National Park, Bulgaria
  • Several Ramsar Sites in Germany and Austria, including Wattenmeer and Unterer Niederrhein, Wadden Sea (European PSSA)

Citation: Crook, V. & Davis, A.P. 2011. Galanthus nivalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T162168A5551773. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided