Snowdrops and bluebells at Runnymede

Snowdrops in bloom

Here at Runnymede it’s no boast that our beautiful meadows are a sight to see as the first days of Spring break through at the turning of the season. As the days start to get lighter for longer, the first flower shoots start popping up in secret woodland clusters

Snowdrops are always a reminder that Spring is just around the corner. Preceding the likes of Daffodils and Crocuses, Snowdrops are among the first blooming flowers of the new year. It’s for this out-of-typical-season blooming that the plants are associated with hope and consolation. Not to mention their clusters of pale petals blanket the woodland floor like a settled rug of snow.

Sprouting and blooming in the January - March period of the year, Snowdrops are an incredibly resilient flower as they usually grow from frozen soil. They don’t require much sunshine and prefer to be in a relatively shaded environment. The bulbs are made of three outer petals concealing three interior petals, the latter of which are spotted with green tips.

Snowdrops have gone by many names throughout agricultural history. They were classified as Galantus in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist. Combining the Greek words gála “milk” and ánthos “flower”, whereas the entire latin translation, Galanthus nivalis, means “milk flower of the snow”. Contrary to this Greek influence, Linnaeus gave a specific epithet non-scriptus when classifying the Bluebell Hyacinthus that it not be connected to the classical Hyacinth from Greek mythology. In the myth, Hyacinths were the floral plant that sprang from the blood of Prince Hyacinthus as he lay dying. 

Bluebells are of course commonly referred to as such for their purple hue and hanging bell-like bulbs. They sprout in many of the country’s ancient woodlands and therefore often have a magical, primeval association. Through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Bluebells are a recognised and protected wildflower: It’s therefore illegal to remove and sell Bluebells on private ground. 

Blooming in the heart of Spring between April and May, Bluebells are as eye catching and memorable as the Snowdrops that arrive before them. Not unlike Snowdrops, Bluebells thrive best in a shaded, woodland area. Bluebell bulbs droop from either side of the main stem and have six petals with delicate up-turned tips. Within these bulbs are the creamy pollen sought after by curious bumblebees, who take what they can back to the hive.