Danger: Snow Drop Thefts on the Increase

carpet snowdrops photo

Photo: the Telegraph

You would think people would have better things to do (or steal) but you never know...
Thieves in England have been digging up snow drops, the lovely white flower that is just popping up now in woods across the land.

Then again, since one single rare snowdrop bulb just sold on ebay for £357 ($575), vigilance is necessary. It's gotten so serious that the National Trust is putting tags and labels on theirs, especially the ones in patches off the beaten track.

e bowles photo

Photo: snowdropinfo E A Bowles

Because of the cold winter this has been a very good year for the flower which naturalizes into carpets of thousands in the forest.

Snowdrops, Galanthus in latin, are highly desireable, and people collect the different varieties. In fact there is a name for these fanatics: galanthophiles. So it is not that surprising that thieves are cashing in on the fad. Scotland seems to have been particularly hard hit by the gangs of "bulb bandits". The thieves come from England, dig the flowers up using a front-end loader, and sell them at flea markets and in the traditional bulb areas of Lincolnshire and East Anglia. Since they are so prized as a quintessential British flower, others get taken to Europe. The Dutch and Germans are particularly fascinated with the flower.

Some of the rarer ones have been sold for £15 for a spadeful and others are going for as much as £70.00 each.

Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire is a particularly popular growing place for the flowers and staff have now drawn up a master map so they know where their 240 species are. The groundsmen are constantly on the look-out for disturbed patches of earth in remote parts of the 114 acre property.

It is illegal to dig up the flowers without the owner's permission, but the penalties are minor and the chances of finding the thieves even less.

But the rarest of them all, the Galanthus plicatus "E A Bowles", was just sold at auction on ebay for £357. It has six pure white petals which are precisely equal in length and is much sought after. Most have three outer petals and three shorter inner segments, often with green markings. The variety was first spotted at Bowles' (a famous gardener) house and hence named after him. It was like finding a four leaf clover: absolutely unique and unknown amongst the tens of thousands of regular ones.

An arrangement was made with a nursery that they would propagate and sell the plant in exchange for a royalty on each one sold. This arrangement resulted in the fabulous sale. Two thirds of the profits will go towards a restoration of Mr. Bowles' garden at Myddelton House Gardens, his home.

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