Galanthus krasnovii Khokhr.

General description: 

From: Davis (1999). Permission has been granted by the author.

G. krasnovii A.P. Khokhr., in Bjull. Moskovsk. Obsc. Isp. Prir. Otd. Biol. 68(4): 140, incl. fig (p. 141) (1963).

BULB ovoid to ± club-shaped, 1.7–3.5(–5) x 0.9–2.5(–3.2) cm. SHEATH (2-)4.5–9 x 0.5–0.8 cm. Vernation supervolute. LEAVES narrowly oblanceolate to ± oblanceolate (broader to distinctly broader in the middle to upper third), often conspicuously narrowed at the base, at flowering 7–22 x 1.5– 3.5(–4) cm, after flowering developing to 10–26(–29) x 2.2–4.3(–6) cm, semi-erect to recurving at maturity; midrib conspicuous; margins flat to slightly undulate; apex obtuse, often with a short point at the tip, ± flat to very slightly hooded; surfaces smooth to slightly puckered, sometimes with two (rarely four) longitudinal folds (leaves bent slightly upwards or slightly downwards); upper and lower surfaces ± the same colour, light to medium-green, slightly shiny to matt. SCAPE 7–22(–27) cm long, green. PEDICEL 15–29 mm long. OUTER PERIANTH segments narrowly obovate to elliptic, 22–34(–47) x 10–16 mm, unguiculate to distinctly unguiculate, claw 4–13(–15) mm long. INNER PERIANTH segments oblanceolate to ± elliptic, 8–10 x 4–5 mm, each segment without a sinus or infrequently with a very small sinus, apex ± acute, and with an angular apical ± U-shaped green mark, or the mark smaller and divided into two small diamondshaped to triangular marks, often with one or two very faint, light green patches near the base; inner face of each segment with a faint green mark similar to the mark on the outer face. ANTHERS tapering to a long point. CAPSULE ± spherical, 10–21 mm in diameter. SEEDS medium- to dark brown, 5–6 mm long.

Flowers between March and May in nature; January and March in cultivation.

Notes: The Russian botanist A.P. Khokhrjakov described G. krasnovii in 1963, from specimens collected in Adzhariya, Georgia, although this species was first collected in north-eastern Turkey in 1908. Khokhrjakov named his new species in honour of the Russian scientist Andrej Nikovaevich Krasnov (1862–1914).

Galanthus krasnovii is one of the most easily recognized of all snowdrops once its main features are known. It has a large bulb, supervolute vernation, broad green leaves, and a distinctively shaped flower; each inner perianth segment has a single green mark at the apex but lacks a sinus. The bulb of G. krasnovii is larger and longer than in all other species, except G. platyphyllus, being distinctly elongated in the uppermost half (almost club-shaped). At maturity the leaves are tightly clasped round each other at the base, and are distinctly broader in the middle to upper part of the leaf. In the wild the leaves can be 3.5–4 cm wide or more (at fruiting time up to 6 cm wide), and up to 30 cm long, although in cultivation the leaves do not grow to this size. The upper surfaces of the leaves often have a slightly puckered texture. The flowers are unique. Each outer perianth segment has a long claw at the base, which continues to lengthen during flowering and may be up to 15 mm long. This feature gives the flower a characteristic appearance, because the outer perianth segments become very long and almost propeller-like; during the latter stages of flowering the inner segments are barely concealed by the outer. Each inner perianth segment is rather pointed at the apex, partly because the segments lack a sinus (apical notch). The only other species in which the sinus can be lacking is G. platyphyllus, and even in G. platyphyllus it can be present, albeit small.

Galanthus krasnovii is closely related to G. platyphyllus, and although these species can look quite similar, there are clear differences between them. In G. krasnovii the inner perianth segments are longer than in G. platyphyllus, mainly because the apex of the segment is more or less pointed (acute), instead of rounded (obtuse) as it is in G. platyphyllus. In G. krasnovii there is only the slightest hint of green near the base of each inner segment, whereas in G. platyphyllus the base is light green. Another less obvious difference is in the shape of the anthers: G. platyphyllus has anthers with blunt tips, whereas those of G. krasnovii, and all other snowdrops, are distinctly pointed . The anthers can be examined using a magnifying lens with magnification x 5, or higher.

Galanthus krasnovii occurs in western Georgia and north-eastern Turkey, mostly around the eastern part of the Black Sea coast. It is known only from about ten localities in the wild, and from only one locality in north-eastern Turkey. In these places it grows at the edges of mixed woodlands, and in open areas amongst grass and other types of low vegetation. The woodlands may include hornbeam (Carpinus betulus, C. orientalis), oriental spruce (Picea orientalis), and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). It is also found amongst hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), holly (Ilex colchica), and with hellebores (Helleborus orientalis). It is a species of the montane zone, growing at between 1,100 and 1,600 m, and perhaps into the lower subalpine zone (c.1,700 m). It is often recorded from places where the soil is damp during the late winter and early spring, close to wet flushes and by the sides of streams and small rivers, for example. It is sometimes found close to, or piercing through, melting snow. During the flowering period G. krasnovii can be found growing in several centimetres of running or lying water. The abundance of water is seasonal, however, and the wet areas of winter and early spring will be quite dry by the end of spring and during the summer. Plants growing near water are invariably larger than those found on drier ground. Galanthus krasnovii occurs on acid and alkaline soils. On acid soils (e.g. pH 5.5) it can be found growing in humus-rich soils with bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), foxglove (Digitalis sp.) and rhododendrons (Rhododendron ponticum).

The rarity of G. krasnovii in the wild is matched by its scarcity in cultivation. It is still not well known in gardens, and only came into cultivation in the British Isles in the 1990s. Limited experience with this species shows that it is not easy to grow,and more experimentation is required before we know what conditions and treatments will suit it best. The few plants in cultivation never attain the stature of their wild counterparts. Galanthus krasnovii is a bold, impressive and luxuriant plant in the wild, and it would be wonderful to grow it well enough to show its full potential. The natural distribution of G. krasnovii suggests that it is cold-tolerant, and able to survive British winters. Recently there has been some success with twin-scaling, although G. krasnovii is not as easy to propagate by this method as other species.


W. Georgia, N.E. Turkey.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith