Galanthus elwesii

Giant Snowdrop

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The giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) is among the first of the very early spring-blooming plants in the Chicago region. As winter eases its grip, these diminutive porcelain-white jewels spring up in turf, flower beds, and deciduous woodlands. In sunlight, the three outer petals flare to reveal the inner fused petals with their intricate green colorations. Simultaneously, the flowers release a honey-sweet fragrance to attract pollinating insects. At maturation, the seeds are released from the ripened capsule with an attached elaiosome, a fleshy membrane filled with lipids and proteins that ants find irresistible. The ants haul seeds and membranes off to their underground homes, effectively spreading the species far from the mother plant and ensuring the seeds are snuggled down for the winter. 

The giant snowdrop is native to the high mountain meadows of the Balkans and western Turkey, where the snows fall early and last late. To survive in this harsh environment, the plant springs into growth as soon as the snow starts to melt, earning the designation “snowmelt species.”

Plant Shape
Full Sun, Partial Shade
Bloom Time
January - February, March - April
Bloom Color
White, Green
Landscape Use
Bedding or Border, Groundcover, Understory
Wildlife Interest
Attracts Butterflies, Resistant To Deer
Plant Type
Hardiness Zone
3 - 8