Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum) and Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) are bulbous plants belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family. They are the only species currently classified in the genus Leucojum
The snowflakes are native to southern Europe, from the Pyrenées to Romania and western Russia, but they have been introduced and have naturalized in many other areas, including the east coast of North America. They have narrow, strap-like, dark green leaves. The flowers are small and bell-shaped, white with a green (or occasionally yellow) spot at the end of each petal. They have a slight fragrance.
The Spring Snowflake normally grows 15-20 cm tall (6-8 in), though it may reach up to 35 cm (14 in). It flowers from March to May (as soon as the snow melts in its wild habitat). Two varieties of Leucojum vernum are known: L. vernum var. carpathicum originates from the eastern part of its natural range and is a larger plant with yellowish spots on its petals rather than green; L. vernum var. vagneri from Hungary is a robust plant, often with two flowers per stem.
The Summer Snowflake has a wider natural range, taking in Europe, southwest Asia and northern Iran, and growing in wetter habitats including damp woodland, riversides and swamps. Despite its common name it also flowers from March to May, though slightly later than the Spring Snowflake. It is a taller plant than Leucojum vernum, growing to around 60 cm (2 ft), but its flowers are smaller and are carried in an umbel of between three and seven. Its fleshy seed pods are inflated, allowing them to be dispersed by flood water.
Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant' is a selected cultivar with larger flowers. It is named after Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan manor house in West Sussex, England, the home of the influential garden writer William Robinson from 1884 until his death in 1935. The house is now a hotel..
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