Friday, February 17, 2017

Snowdrop Season

My snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) have been up since January. And climate change is a myth? I think not. We've had an extraordinarily temperate winter in 2016-2017. Temperatures are due to hit around 60 this weekend. Yikes! We've had very little cumulative snow, so I fear that soils are pretty dry right now. We'll see what happens to evergreens as things progress.

Snowdrops. These little magical flowers give me such pleasure. They are stubborn little things for a plant that seems so delicate. The patch pictured seeded itself from the original grouping and every year is a little bit bigger. The original planting had died out to only one plant. I'm happy to report that this year, it has pulled itself together and is up to three little bunches. This is why I let them go to seed. They are among the plants dispersed by ants.

Guess what? Ants are pretty important for seed dispersal for some plants. Snowdrops, wild ginger, and violets among others produce seed with a special appendage called an elaiosome that is rich in fats, sugars, and other goodies that are particularly attractive to ants. Propagators will often call it 'ant candy'. Ants will carry off the seed, consume their treat and the plant is neatly dispersed away from its parent. Cool, eh? This is why I don't get fussed over anthills or ants in the yard. Go, little pollinators, go!

It is fascinating to me to see where these ant candy plants pop up in the yard. My wild ginger is spreading slowly by rhizomes, but it has also appeared in places 20 feet from a patch in full sun. Will it survive? We shall see. I am awash in violets in the lawn and the beds. The back 40 (feet, not acres) resembles an alpine meadow in spring. I love them. As a child, I'd pick violets for tiny bouquets for my dolls.

What plants suddenly appear in your gardens?