The appearance of Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in January is one of the first signs that Spring is just around the corner.

Snowdrops are a perennial flower in the Alliaceae family, alongside the garlics and daffodils. They can grow up to 25cm tall and are found in a range of habitats, including damp woodlands, hedge banks, churchyards. Although many people think of Snowdrops as a native wildflower, it is now believed that they were in fact introduced to Britain in the early sixteenth century.

Snowdrops are pretty neat little things and have a surprising range of uses too, including agricultural and medicinal applications...

Snowdrop lectin (carbohydrate-binding proteins) is an effective insecticide against species of Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Hemiptera (true bugs), and some research has suggested that introducing Snowdrop lectin to genetically-modified crops may increase the resistance of GM crops to insect pests. Snowdrop lectin is also being investigated due to its potential activity against HIV.

Galanthamine is an alkaloid found in Snowdrops which has been approved for use in a number of countries for assisting with the management of Alzheimer's disease, as well as being used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system.

These delightful little plants are fairly numerous around the UEA campus, and are especially abundant underneath the conifers near the Sainsbury Centre.

Some of the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) near the UEA Sainsbury Centre

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