Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Glory of the snow in spring
Yet another surprise at Kew Gardens, the blue Chionodoxa in a narrow lawn stretching from White Peaks to The Orangery. Glory of the Snow as it is commonly called, was planted there in 2001 and has become one of Kew's seasonal attractions. We even have a sign for it!
Lynda and I have been at Kew since the middle of April last year so we we have another month of surprises in stall. And then of course all the ones we missed in the first year...
According the aforementioned and photographed sign, this Glory of the Snow in Chionodoxa siehei from Turkey. This seems to be the most popular name for the species grown most commonly in the UK. In Tom Cope's checklist of native and naturalised plants of Kew he calls it Chionodoxa forbesii, which is the name of not unsimilar species. If the two species are considered the same, as they are by some scientists, forbesii becomes the correct name (it was the first one described). What ever you do, don't use the name Chionodoxa luciliae - even Wikipedia knows this has been applied to the wrong plant.
Seeing as we are talking taxonomy, Chionodoxa as a genus is close to Scilla, and in modern classifications they both huddle together in their own subfamily (Scilloideae) of the Asparagaceae. In the same subfamily you'll find hyacinths and bluebells.
I have to confess here that when a hyacinth flower raised it's blue petals above the ivy in our back garden I announced to the world I had Kew's first bluebell. So much for my reputation. Anyway, let's just say the bluebell and hyacinth has something in common - it's no reason the bluebell's scientific name is Hyacinthoides you know. This is, then, one of Kew's first Scilloideae (a Hyacinth), from a few week's back.
But today is all about Glory of the Snow. Whatever it's scientific name there are records from Kew back to at least 1884. In 1969, according to Tom Cope, it was 'said to be appearing everywhere, even in newly dug ground'. However I can confirm there is none in my backyard. Well, I think not. Let's stick with what is well signposted and clearly there.