Plant of the Week: Common snowdrop

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Most everyone who catches sight of the first Galanthus, or snowdrop, of the season will agree that they are special. Especially after a long winter, the delicate white flowers, often marked with smudges or stripes of green, are a sight for sore eyes and a sign that spring is truly coming. For some gardeners, though, snowdrops are more than a pretty harbinger of warmer weather. For some, snowdrops are an obsession.

Cultivated in Europe for centuries, Galanthus first became a collectors' item in the 1850s, when soldiers began bringing the bulbs home as souvenirs from the Crimean War. The many species, thrown into proximity for the first time, began to hybridize with abandon. New and special varieties were traded among gardeners with gusto. Now, particularly in the United Kingdom, snowdrops are prized beyond all other flowers by self-described 'Galanthophiles.' Late each winter, these enthusiasts tour specialized snowdrop gardens, which display collections of hundreds of varieties of Galanthus. The literature on snowdrops is extensive, and each new book seeks to classify and re-classify the new varieties that have since been revealed. New cultivars are anticipated and introduced with relish every year, and single bulbs of the rarest varieties have been known to sell at auction for as much as a thousand dollars.

On the High Line, we grow only two varieties of Galanthus. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, featured in this week's photo, grows in drifts on the woodland floor of the Phillip A. and Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover, between West 25th and 27th Street. And Elwes' snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, is a newer species on the High Line at the Rail Yards. It's highly anticipated, and should bloom any moment along the Rail Track Walks on West 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenue.

Native to Europe, Galanthus nivalis is a popular bulbous perennial and a common plant in many parks and gardens throughout the temperate zone. Snowdrops will naturalize into drifts under dappled shade in well-draining, medium-moist soils. These diminutive bulbs are not just another pretty face – they also contain an alkaloid, galantamine, used to treat mild-to-moderate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

On the High Line between West 25th Street and West 27th Street

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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