Leucojum vernum, called spring snowflake, is a perennial bulbous flowering plant species in the family Amaryllidaceae (the daffodil family). It native to central and southern Europe from Belgium to Ukraine. It is considered naturalized in north-western Europe, including Great Britain and parts of Scandinavia, and in Georgia and Florida in the United States. It is cultivated as a spring-flowering ornamental bulbous plant. Usually a single white flower with greenish marks near the tip of each tepal is borne on a stem about 10–20 cm tall, occasionally more.
Leucojum vernum is a perennial bulbous plant, 12–35 cm tall in flower. Its leaves, which appear at the same time as the flowers and continue to elongate during flowering, are 5–25 mm wide and 10–25 cm long, generally reaching to below the level of the flowers. The flowering stem (scape) has a small central cavity and two narrow wings. The pendant flowers appear in spring and are usually solitary, rarely in an umbel of two. The flowers have six white tepals, each with a greenish or yellowish mark just below the tip. Each tepal is 15–25 mm long. The whitish seeds are about 7 mm long.
- Leucojum vernum var. carpathicum Sweet – Carpathian Mountains (Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine)
- Leucojum vernum var. vernum
L. vernum var. carpathicum is distinguished by presence of yellow rather than greenish markings at the tip of each tepal. Some botanists also recognize var. vagneri, with two flowers per scape.
Distribution and habitat
Leucojum vernum is native to central Europe and parts of southern and western Europe, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Romania, former Yugoslavia and the Ukraine. It has become naturalized in other parts of Europe, including Great Britain, the Netherlands and parts of Scandinavia, and in Georgia and Florida in the United States. It is found in damp and shady habitats, including woods, up to elevations of 1600 m.
Leucojum vernum is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its white flowers in spring. It is described as "easy to grow", either in sun or partial shade, particularly in moist soil and in grass. The species has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
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.
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- Birks, J. (2006). "Cholinesterase inhibitors for Alzheimer's disease". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1): CD005593. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005593. PMID 16437532.