A galanthophile is someone who collects, or just really, really likes, snowdrops. It comes from the Greek name for the flower which is ‘galanthus’, and translates to ‘milk flower’. Which isn’t as nice as ‘snowdrop’, but I guess there’s probably more milk than snow in Greece.
Snowdrops aren’t native to the UK, but no one knows when or where they came here. It was probably around 1770-something, although it could have been a few hundred years earlier. So that’s not a very useful snowdrop-fact, sorry. Here’s a better one – there are more than 2,500 varieties of snowdrop and some of them can grow up to 30cm high. The Victorians thought they signified death and it was seen as bad luck to have them in the house (that got dark fast, didn’t it?). This might have something to do with the fact that the bulbs are really poisonous if you eat them (though why the hell they were eating snowdrop bulbs is anyone’s guess).
In nicer news, snowdrops contain a substance called ‘galantamine’ which is used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Snowdrop collectors are proper mental. No, really – bulbs are regularly stolen, and a single one can go for several hundred pounds on eBay (other online stores are available). Have a look at this article to find out more.
To finish off with some better words than those above, here’s a bit of Willie Wordsworth (as no one calls him) on snowdrops:
‘Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art though welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years.’