Budapest

Hungary’s celebrated snowdrop sprouts early in Budapest

Photo : Wikipedia

With drooping white petals draped from bold green stalks audaciously popping up amid frigid landscapes, the local snowdrop or “hóvirág” is a cherished wintertime sight among Magyars who regard this early-blooming Central European plant as a harbinger of springtime. Usually these seemingly sleepy florets first awaken in late February or March, but Budapest Zoo reports that a hóvirág spontaneously sprouted there in early January, many weeks before its ordinary arrival time – is this a sign that spring is coming soon, or a symptom of weird winter weather?

Intrepid cold-season hikers sometimes discover small hóvirág clumps budding through patches of slow-melting snow that often still covers Hungary’s woodlands in late winter. According to a recent Hungarian-language announcement from Budapest Zoo, however, one of these snowdrops was spotted sprouting outside the János Xántus Southeast Asian animal enclosure during the first half of this month, much earlier than its usual blooming season in late February. As these are the usually first flowers to blossom in Central Europe at the cusp of springtime, this early hóvirág appearance could mean that winter is almost over… however, the most likely explanation is not so rosy.

Photo: Zoltán Bagosi/Budapest Zoo

Zoo officials believe that Hungary’s recent spell of unseasonably warm weather, which persisted through the holiday season into early January, inspired the most courageous hóvirág seeds to germinate ahead of schedule. Some of the Budapest Zoo’s ornamental cherry trees are also already flowering this month, when they ordinarily blossom to great fanfare in March and early April. Sadly, this week’s bitter cold snap across Hungary most likely cut short any springtime dreams among the premature specimens of these determined plants.

Photo: Zoltán Bagosi/Budapest Zoo

Nonetheless, Hungary’s hóvirág admirers should still have plenty of time to view these graceful flowers in the weeks to come, as botanists predict most snowdrop seeds will sprout during their usual germination period beginning next month – but if you are fortunate enough to spot a hóvirág during a Buda Hills hike, don’t pick it – this is a protected plant species, and collectors who are caught can be fined 10,000 forints per flower.

Photo: Zoltán Bagosi/Budapest Zoo

But even if nobody’s around when you spot a hóvirág, please refrain from taking it home, just to help these plucky plants persevere as weather becomes more erratic with the increasing pace of global warming. If the early blooming of this lovely flower is the only consequence Hungary has to face because of Mother Nature’s polluted fury, then everyone living here will be lucky indeed.