• Meenal Harankhedkar, Director of Horticulture

Botanist's Lens: A Glimpse at the 'Fair Maid of February' and 'Sacred Lily'


Flowers of Galanthus sps. 'Snowdrops', 'Fair Maid of February'

As early as February, there are subtle signs of spring in a much dormant woodland. A glimpse at the base of a woodland ground or the tips of branches can give out ample clues. Either the branches are prepped with the swollen leaf /flower buds or tender buds are trying to push out of the leaf litter, or in some cases, it is a full grown mature flower all surrounded by leaves, like the Galanthus sps.

Galanthus sps. 'Snowdrops', 'Fair Maid of February', in full bloom

Galanthus has many common names; the most common is Snowdrops. The genus origin traces back to Europe and some common names include: the English name 'Fair maids of February'; 'Candlemas bells' or 'perce-niege' ('snow piercer' in French); and 'schneeglocken' ('snowbells' in German). There is a speculation that snowdrops might have been brought to England by the pilgrims from Rome. (https://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/2009/02/20/fair-maids-of-february/)

Tender buds of 'Galanthus sps. 'Snowdrops', 'Fair Maid of February'

Snowdrops do well in zones 3-9, enjoy shaded areas and moist soils. Once established, they will brighten the woodlands for years to come. The best part is that they easily form clumps and establish well, but aren't aggressive.

Common names are fun, but I always recommend knowing the real Latin name of a plant. Galanthus species belong to the diverse Amaryllidaceae. This family has over 1500 species and includes Alliideae group that has the onions, chives, etc. as well as the large Amaryllidoideae group which has the Amaryllis, Daffodils, Snowdrops and Hemerocallis (Daylily).

Rhodea japonica 'Sacred Lily' in winter

Another beautiful plant in full glory right now is the 'Sacred Lily', Rhodea japonica. It is an excellent evergreen ground cover with rather large leaves. The deep green color of the leaves is aesthetic in itself, but the red luscious berries highlight this plant even more. Rhodeas do well in part-full shade and form about a foot long clump that is not at all attractive to the deer. They are drought tolerant to some extent, but like wet feet.

Red berries of Rhodea japonica 'Sacred Lily'

Interestingly, Rhodeas belong to the Asparagaceae family which also consist of: Liriope, Danae, and even Yucca!

Referred to as the 'venturous harbinger of spring' and the 'unbidden guest' in the poem "To a Snowdrop," (published in 1819 by William Wordsworth) it is a beautiful reminder of how even in the harshest of winters, the delicate white snowdrops will emerge and flourish till spring arrives.

A stroll through the woodland gardens at London Town will give you a glimpse of the snowdrops in full bloom and the sacred lily fruits in absolute showtime!

#snowdrops #rhodeajaponica #sacredlily #galanthus

839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, MD 21037          410-222-1919         londontown@historiclondontown.org

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube