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What is Leucojum?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Leucojum is a plant genus that is part of the Amaryllidaceae family. It contains about 10 species of perennial herbs that are found in southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa. Most of the species feature bell-shaped white flowers and grass-like foliage. They are adaptable to most soil conditions and generally don't require much maintenance. Some species are prone to insect damage.

The plants in the genus Leucojum are commonly referred to as snowflake plants. Leucojum aestivum is known as the summer snowflake, while Leucojum autumnale Linnaeus is known as the autumn snowflake. The spring snowflake is Leucojum vernum Linnaeus. In some areas, this genus is incorrectly referred to as snowdrop. Snowdrop is usually used to describe the genus Galanthus.

Some characteristics which distinguish Leucojum from related plant genuses include equal sized petals and sepals, arranged in perianth segments, and hollow stems. A perianth segment is a flower arrangement in which two layers of flower tissue consist of the same number of segments and are equally sized. The inner layer is called petals and the outer layer is called sepals. Also, the hollow stems of Leucojum plants are typically taller than the plants of the Galanthus genus, and they have at least two flowers at the tips.

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Plants in this genus don't require a specific set of environmental conditions to grow well. In fact, most of the species can grow in a variety of soil types including clay, loam, or sand. This genus can also handle both acidic and alkaline soil. The soil should be well-draining however. Also, the plants in this genus should be planted in an area that is exposed to direct sunlight.

Leucojum aestivum is a popular species which generally grows 2 feet (60 cm) in height and has a spread of 4 inches (10 cm). It takes 2-5 years for the plant to mature. The foliage and flowers make the plant an attractive addition to flower beds or borders.

L. aestivum is vulnerable to insect damage, particularly from the narcissus bulb fly and slugs. The narcissus bulb fly looks like a bumble bee. It damages the flower bud of the plant and deposits eggs, which may develop into maggots if left untreated. Slugs will eat the leaves and flowers of the plant.

The best way to prevent infestation is to use insect traps for the flies and slugs and a hot water bath for the maggots. Usually, an infested flower head can be treated by submerging it in hot water for about one-half hour. Insecticides can also be used to control infestation.

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