From: Davis (1999). Permission has been granted by the author.
G. plicatus M. Bieb., in Fl. Taur.-Caucas. 3: 255 (1819).
BULB ± spherical to ovoid, 2–4.5 x 2–2.8 cm. SHEATH 2.5–8 x 0.5–0.9 cm. Vernation explicative. LEAVES ± linear to narrowly oblanceolate (broader in the middle to upper third), and often narrowed at the base, at flowering (3.6–)4.5–20(–25) x 0.6–1.7 cm, after flowering developing to 8–21(–27) x 0.6–2.1 cm, erect or recurving at maturity; margins distinctly folded downwards towards the under surface of the leaf (explicative), or at maturity each fold is ± two thirds from the centre of the leaf to margin (two folds per leaf), flat to undulate; midrib conspicuous; apex obtuse to acute, flat to slightly hooded; surfaces smooth apart from folds; upper and lower surfaces different in colour or ± the same, upper surface green-glaucescent to glaucescent or almost glaucous (pale to dull grey), with or without a narrow to broad glaucescent median stripe or band, matt to slightly shiny, lower surface glaucescent to glaucous (grey to white-grey), matt. SCAPE (5–)7–15(–18) cm long, green to glaucescent. PEDICEL 20–32 mm long. OUTER PERIANTH segments obovate to broadly obovate, ± elliptic, 15–24 x 9–14 mm, slightly unguiculate. INNER PERIANTH segments obovate to obtriangular or ± oblong, 08–14 x 5–8 mm; each segment with a sinus and an apical ± V- to U-shaped green mark, sometimes the mark much larger and covering almost all of the segment, or each segment with two marks, one apical and one basal, the second (basal) mark at the base and covering up to slightly more than half of the segment; inner face of each segment with a faint green mark covering ± the entire segment. ANTHERS tapering to a long point. CAPSULE ± spherical to ellipsoid, 10– 15 mm in diameter. SEEDS medium to dark brown, c.5 mm long.
Flowers between February and April in nature; December and March in cultivation.
Notes: Galanthus plicatus was named by the German botanist and explorer F.A. Marschall von Bieberstein in 1819, based on specimens collected in the Crimean peninsula in 1808. We know, however, that G. plicatus was in cultivation during the sixteenth century, as it is recorded and illustrated in contemporaneous herbals and florilegia. It was known to the famous botanist Carolus Clusius (Charles de l’Escluse), who included it in his Rariorum aliquot stirpium, per Pannonian, Austrian & vicinas … historia of 1583. Clusius tells us that he received a single bulb from Constantinople (now Istanbul), via Madame de Heysentein. There was obviously a close association between this species and Clusius, as it has been referred to as ‘Clusius’s snowdrop’ (Somerus 1820), and even as G. clusii (Steudel 1840). According to Loudon (1841), in her work Ladies’ Flower Garden, G. plicatus was first introduced into English gardens in the late sixteenth century, as she states that: ‘It is a native of Russia, and though it was first brought to England in 1592, it is very rarely in British gardens; probably from the flowers being less showy than that of the common kind.’
Galanthus plicatus was so named because of the distinctive and conspicuous way in which the leaves are folded. The margins of the leaf are distinctly folded flat against the lower surface of the leaf in bud (vernation), and when mature they remain distinctly folded towards the underside of the leaf. This type of leaf folding provides an easy character for the recognition of this species. The epithet plicatus is, however, not an accurate term for describing this type of folding, which is correctly referred to as ‘explicative’. The colour of the upper leaf surface is variable, and can be dull green, glaucescent or nearly glaucous (pale whitish-grey). Many specimens have a broad, diffuse, glaucescent to glaucous central band or stripe running along the middle of the upper leaf surface, similar to, but never as well defined as, that of G. reginae-olgae. The lower surface of the leaf is usually glaucous (whitish-grey or silver-grey).
Galanthus plicatus has a well-defined distribution, restricted principally to an area around the western and central part of the Black Sea coast region. It occurs in southern Russia, the Crimea, Romania and in northern Turkey. It is not a common plant throughout this range, however, and is only rarely found in large numbers.
Galanthus plicatus is mostly found in deciduous woodland: for example, with beech (Fagus orientalis, F. sylvatica), oak (Quercus spp.), lime (Tilia spp.), horn beam (Carpinus betulus, C. orientalis) and elm (Ulmus spp.). It may also be found in natural coniferous woodland, with pine (Pinus spp.), fir (Abies spp.), and juniper (Juniperus spp.), and is common in scrub, for example with juniper (Juniperus spp.) and wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis). It sometimes occurs in damp shady habitats, near streams and rivers, and in gorges and small ravines. It is found in habitats overlying limestone, alluvium, sand, and sometimes clay, where the soils are usually deep, fertile, and humus-rich. Galanthus plicatus occurs in the low- to midmontane zone, from 100 to 1,350 m, but appears to be most frequent at altitudes above 800 m.
Galanthus plicatus is one of the most common species in gardens, probably because it is easy to grow and has a relatively long history in cultivation. It is certainly one of the finest snowdrops for the garden, as it has great beauty and is free flowering. Like some of the other Galanthus species, it is well worth growing several variants of G. plicatus, as there is great variability in size, flower marking, flower shape, etc. Just as important for the gardener is its variability in flowering time, which covers the period from late December to mid- or late March. There are also many named cultivars, including some with yellow markings and yellow ovaries, and others with particularly large and attractive flowers. Many of the best garden cultivars are hybrids between G. plicatus and other species, expecially G. nivalis (G. xvalentinei), and G. elwesii (G. xhybridus).
There are two subspecies of G. plicatus, subsp. plicatus and subsp. byzantinus, which are distinguished by the number of green marks on each inner perianth segment.
Key to subspecies of Galanthus plicatus:
Inner perianth segments with one green mark at the apex; apical mark sometimes covering up to two thirds (or more) of segment ........................................................................................................................... Subsp. plicatus
Inner segments with two green marks, one at the apex and one at the base; apical mark not covering more than one half of segment .................................................................................................................. Subsp. byzantinus
Romania, S. Russia (including Crimea), N. Turkey.