Leucojum aestivum L.



CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 3

© DETenaglia

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a bulb, lacking the odor of onion or garlic.

Leucojum_aestivum_bulbs.jpg Bulbs.

© SRTurner

Stems - Aerial stems ascending to erect, to 40 cm, unbranched below the inflorescence, erect, hollow, somewhat flattened, glabrous.

Leaves - Basal, linear, flat, to 40 cm, the bases sheathing the aerial stems, equaling or exceeding the aerial stems, glabrous, dark green.

Leucojum_aestivum_sheath.jpg Sheath at base of leaf.

© SRTurner

Leucojum_aestivum_leaves.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Leucojum_aestivum_leaves2.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Terminal umbels of 2-7 flowers, subtended by a green, herbaceous, spathelike bract 3-5 cm long. Flowers pendent on stalks 15-65 mm long, not replaced by bulblets.

Leucojum_aestivum_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perianth 10-20 mm long, bell-shaped, the 3 sepals and 3 petals attached to the top of the ovary, elliptic to obovate, white with a green spot at the thickened tip, glabrous. Stamens 6, attached to the top of the ovary, free from the perianth. Style 1, longer than the stamens, abruptly narrowed below the minute stigma. Ovary inferior, with 3 locules, each with numerous ovules.

Leucojum_aestivum_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Leucojum_aestivum_functional2.jpg Inferior ovary, stamens, and style (view with tepals removed).

© SRTurner

Leucojum_aestivum_perianth.jpg Perianth.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Obovoid capsules 12-20 mm long.

Leucojum_aestivum_functional.jpg Fruit and flower.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Persisting, or uncommonly escaped, around old homesites, cemeteries, and disturbed sites.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Lookalikes - Broadly, Galanthus nivalis.

Other info. - This distinctive species is widely cultivated in Missouri and elsewhere in the U.S. Once established it can persist for decades without further care. There are reports that the plant will (uncommonly) escape cultivation in parts of the eastern U.S., but there is scant evidence that this ever occurs in Missouri. Missouri plants rarely produce mature fruits. The plant is easily identified by its unique flowers, and these are sometimes the most visible evidence of a former homestead.

Like many of the lilies, this species is toxic if ingested. The plant contains numerous alkaloids, including haemanthamine, lycorine and galanthamine and their relatives. Galanthamine (sometimes called "galantamine") has been investigated as a treatment for dementia and autism, and as an antidote to organophosphate poisoning.

Many botanists now place the genus Leucojum (and others) in the Amaryllidaceae.

Photographs taken near Tom's Creek, NC., 4-20-03, and off Lee Rd 10, Lee County, AL., 3-1-06 (DETenaglia); also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 5-2-2018 (SRTurner).