From: Davis (1999). Permission has been granted by the author.
G. alpinus Sosn., in Vestn. Tiflissk. Bot. Sada 19: 26 (1911).
BULB ovoid to ± spherical, 2.1–2.6(–3) x 1.5–2.3 cm, whitish or yellowish. SHEATH 2.5–5.5 x 0.4–0.7 cm. Vernation supervolute. LEAVES ± linear to narrowly oblanceolate (broader in the middle to upper third), slightly narrowed at the base, at flowering 2.5–20(–25) x (0.4–)0.6–2.2(–2.5) cm, after flowering developing to 13–23(–35) x 0.6–2.5 cm, recurving or erect at maturity; midrib conspicuous; margins flat; apex acute to obtuse, usually hooded; surfaces smooth, sometimes with two (rarely four) longitudinal folds (leaves bent slightly upwards or slightly downwards); upper and lower surfaces ± the same colour, glaucous (grey to grey-blue), matt to slightly shiny. SCAPE 9–16 cm long, glaucescent to glaucous. PEDICEL 15–30 mm long. OUTER PERIANTH segments broadly obovate to elliptic or ± circular, 15–20 x 8–11 mm, slightly unguiculate. INNER PERIANTH segments obovate to ± obtriangular, 7–10 x 4–5 mm, each segment with a sinus and an apical, narrow, ± V- to U-shaped green mark; inner face of each segment with a faint green mark covering half to ± the entire segment. ANTHERS tapering to a long point. CAPSULE ± spherical, 6–11 mm in diameter. SEEDS pale brown, 3–5 mm long.
Notes: The Russian botanist D.I. Sosnowsky named Galanthus alpinus in 1911, and based his description of this species on plants he collected on Mount Lomis-mta near Borzhomi, in Georgia. Sosnowsky’s collections came from the alpine zone at approximately 2,200 m, hence the epithet alpinus. Galanthus alpinus was published before G. caucasicus and therefore has priority over this later name, according to the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). The majority of plants in gardens labelled G. caucasicus are, however, not G. alpinus, but instead represent G. elwesii var. monostictus (see below). True G. alpinus is, in fact, a rare plant in gardens, and at the present time is only found in a few specialist collections and some botanical gardens. The variety G. alpinus var. bortkewitschianus is slightly more frequent in cultivation and is available from several specialist bulb nurseries. The reason for the scarcity of G. alpinus is unclear, as it is fully cold-hardy in the British Isles, and should be suitable for our climate. It may be simply because it has not been introduced into cultivation in sufficient numbers, and it also seems to take quite a long time to make sizeable clumps. Galanthus alpinus can be propagated by seed, although var. bortkewitschianus (see below) does not produce viable seed, so must be propagated vegetatively.
Galanthus alpinus is characterized by its supervolute vernation, glaucous leaves and single green mark at the apex of each inner perianth segment. This combination of characters is also present in G. elwesii var. monostictus, although G. alpinus is usually a much smaller plant, and has narrower leaves and smaller flowers. The natural distribution of G. elwesii and G. alpinus do not overlap.
Galanthus alpinus is found in the mountains of the Caucasus, Transcaucasus and Pontus. It occurs throughout Georgia, in southern Russia (north Caucasus), Armenia, north-eastern Turkey, and possibly northern Iran. Throughout its natural range it is usually a rare plant, particularly in the western Transcaucasus where it only occurs in small isolated populations.
Galanthus alpinus has two botanical varieties, var. alpinus and var. bortkewitschianus, which can be distinguished using the key below.
Key to varieties of Galanthus alpinus:
Bulb scales whitish; seed capsules developing to maturity (fertile); throughout the Caucasus and Transcaucasus region (Russia, Georgia, Armenia) and in neighbouringareas (north-eastern Turkey) ............................ var. alpinus Bulbs scales yellowish; seed capsules not developing to maturity (sterile); found only in one site in the district of Chegem, upper Kamenka region, Karbardino-Balcaria (Russia) ........................................... var. bortkewitschianus