Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Golden balls

Almost ripe capsules of Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles'
For several weeks I have been watching a pair of capsules from Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles', hanging over a low wall by the side of the path. Today I noticed that they had changed from greenish-yellow to deep yellow, indicating that they are ready to harvest. This was confirmed by feeling them and finding that they were soft and squashy, so I picked them off. Snowdrop seed is ripe at this stage, but the capsule will shrink further and eventually split to release the seed. It's safest to pick the capsule and keep it in a packet or on a saucer until the capsules open naturally. I try to sow the seed as soon as possible, as it seems to give better germination in the first year, but the seed can be dried and stored in a cool place for an autumn sowing if absolutely necessary, but germination may then be more erratic and occur over several years.

As a consequence of this discovery I've had a quick prowl round the garden to look for capsules on other good clones. There are quite a few there, now mostly lying flat on the ground, attached or not to the scape, but most are still firm and hard and light green in colour, indicating that they're not really ready for collection. None of the flowers were hand-pollinated, so the flower could have been fertilized by any other snowdrop in the garden or nearby, and resultant seedlings will be a lucky dip. 

Unripe capsules of Galanthus nivalis


  1. Fascinating, I've never looked for the seed pods before, always just left it up to Nature to increase my snowdrops. I'm off for to look in my tiny (compared to yours!)woodland to see what I can find. Cheers.


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