Leucojum aestivum, commonly called summer snowflake or Loddon lily, is a plant species widely cultivated as an ornamental. It is native to most of Europe from Spain and Ireland to Ukraine, with the exception of Scandinavia, Russia, Belarus and the Baltic Republics. It is also considered native to Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus. It is naturalized in Denmark, South Australia, New South Wales, Nova Scotia and much of the eastern United States.
Leucojum aestivum is a perennial bulbous plant, generally 35–60 cm tall, but some forms reach 90 cm. Its leaves, which are well developed at the time of flowering, are strap-shaped, 5–20 mm wide, reaching to about the same height as the flowers. The flowering stem (scape) is hollow and has wings with translucent margins. The pendant flowers appear in late spring and are borne in umbels of usually three to five, sometimes as many as seven. The flower stalks (pedicels are of different lengths, 25–70 mm long. The flowers are about 3–4 cm in diameter and have six white tepals, each with a greenish mark just below the tip. The black seeds are 5–7 mm long.
After flowering, the fruits develop flotation chambers but remain attached to the stem. In England, it has been recorded that flooding causes the stems to break and the fruits to be carried downstream and stranded in river debris or on flood-plains. The bulbs can also be transported during heavy floods and deposited on river banks.
Flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) approaching flowers
Growing by water in Bulgaria
Growing in a damp meadow in Croatia
Leucojum aestivum was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1759. The epithet aestivum means "of the summer". Two subspecies have been recognized (sometimes as varieties rather than subspecies): the nominate L. aestivum subsp. aestivum and L. aestivum subsp. pulchellum. The latter has also been treated as a separate species, L. pulchellum. L. aestivum subsp. pulchellum is differentiated by its generally smaller dimensions. The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families does not recognize any infraspecific taxa.
Distribution and habitat
Leucojum aestivum is native to most of Europe, with the exception of Scandinavia, Russia, Belarus and the Baltic Republics, and is also native to Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran. It is naturalized in other parts of Europe, including Denmark, in South Australia, New South Wales, Nova Scotia and much of the eastern United States. L. aestivum is found in damp places, such as wet meadows, swamps, and ditches.
Leucojum aestivum is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its flowers. It requires a damp position, growing well on clay soils, where it increases rapidly. The cultivar 'Gravetye Giant' is robust, growing to 90 cm (35 in) with up to eight flowers on each scape, and has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. L. aestivum 'Gravetye Giant' is named after Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan manor house in West Sussex, England, the former home of the gardener William Robinson.
All species of Leucojum are poisonous, as the leaves and bulbs contain the toxic alkaloids lycorine and galantamine. Galantamine is used for the treatment of cognitive decline in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and various other memory impairments.
- "Leucojum aestivum". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
- Grey-Wilson, Christopher; Mathew, Brian & Blamey, Marjorie (1981). Bulbs : the bulbous plants of Europe and their allies. London: Collins. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-00-219211-8.
- Mathew, Brian (1987). The Smaller Bulbs. London: B.T. Batsford. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-7134-4922-8.
- Webb, D.A. (1980). "Leucojum aestivum". In Tutin, T.G.; Heywood, V.H.; Burges, N.A.; Valentine, D.H.; Walters, S.M. & Webb, D.A. (eds.). Flora Europaea, Volume 5: Alismataceae to Orchidaceae. Cambridge University Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-521-06662-4.
- "Site name: Lodge Wood and Sandford Mill" (PDF). Natural England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
- Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R.J. (1995). Plants and their names : a concise dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-19-866189-4.
- "Search for Leucojum aestivum". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2017-12-15.
- Straley, Gerald B. & Utech, Frederick H. "Leucojum aestivum". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America (online). eFloras.org. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 60. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
- Brittain, Julia (2006). "Gravetye Manor". Plant Lover's Companion: Plants, People and Places. David & Charles. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-7153-2421-9. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- "Galantamine". Drugs.com. 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
- Birks, J. (2006). "Cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer's disease". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD005593. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005593. PMID 16437532.