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27 February 2010

Mondays word: Galanthophile - and Happy Saint David's Day

I'm a galanthophile - and have been for as long as I can remember.

Okay, that's my confession for today and I'm not ashame to admit it. What s
is a galarthophile anyway? I hear you ask. Well, it's simply a rather important sounding term for a collector or lover of snowdrops.

I think one of the things that makes me love the snowdrop so much is their simplicity. I'm not so keen on the double varieties or 'snowflakes' as they're sometimes called, although they do look very effecrive when there are masses of them spread out under the trees, like a carpet of snow. No, I have a great affection for the simple bell-like variety with three outer petals or more correctly, tepals (there is one variety which has four.) Purest of white, with a narrow, broken wavy band of green on the inner tepals they stand erect, in the coldest of winters, hanging their little heads demurely. They may all look similar, but there are many different varieties, including one which is nicknamed ''grumpy" because the green 'bridge' shaped mark has two green dots above it, which make it look like a grumpy face! It's still beautiful though.

There are many legends about the snowdrop too, one of my favourites is that Eve wept as she and Adam were turned out of the Garden of Eden, and the angels felt so sorry for her, they turned her tears to snowdrops. In some places snowdrops are known as 'Eve's tears'.

Snowdrops are not native to Britain, as many people think, and may have been brought here in the sixteenth century. There is one variety which was supposedly brought back by soldiers after the Crimean war.

*Michael Quinion says about the word 'galanthrophile':

"It comes from the formal botanical name for the genus, Galanthus,
which derives from Greek "gala", milk, and "anthos", flower. (Words from "gala" include "galactose", milk sugar, and "galaxy",
originally meaning the Milky Way.)

It's possible to trace the term to the late nineteenth century. It
appears, spelled "galanthophil", in an issue of The Garden in 1892
in reference to the Somerset gardener James Allen, a pioneer in
hybridising snowdrops. Elsewhere, credit is given to the garden
writer and plantsman E A Bowles; he is said to have created it in a
letter, whose date isn't given, but is almost certainly after 1892.

In recent years the term has become moderately common among garden writers in the UK as study and collection of snowdrop varieties has become much more widespread, even fashionable."

Before I finish for today, it's the 1st March. I'd like to wish all my fellow Welsh men and women "Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus!' - a Happy Saint David's Day. I'll be proudly wearing my yellow daffodil today and to celebrate, here's a link to an article on one of my favourite blogs, Americymru.

Note: Saint David (c. 500–589) (Welsh: Dewi Sant) was a church official; he was later regarded as a saint, and in particular, the patron saint of Wales. In contrast with the other national patron saints of the British Isles, Saints George, Andrew and Patrick, David is a native of the country of which he is patron saint. One of his most famous miracles is said to have taken place when he was preaching in the middle of a large crowd at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. When those at the back complained that they could not see or hear him, the ground on which he stood is reputed to have risen up to form a small hill so that everyone had a good view. A white dove was seen settling on his shoulder and nowadays he is often depicted with a white dove above his right shoulder, a sign of God's grace and blessing.

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org/