Mattioli’s Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo (Discorsi by Mattioli and Cibo)

Escila (Scilla bifolia L.) y Campanilla de invierno (Galanthus nivalis L.), ff. 34v-35r

Alpine squill (Scilla bifolia) and Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Alpine squill grows in forests throughout Italy and France, and from central Europe to the Caucasus. It is cultivated in Spain, where it is also said to grow wild in the Pyrenean area, although it is not proven to be a wild plant but rather a cultivated plant that has established itself in the wild. Four species of this genus grow in Italy, eight are also found on the Iberian Peninsula. It was not used for medicinal purposes. It sprouts from a bulb consisting of a cluster of leaves that store food enabling it to bloom in due course, at the end of winter or beginning of spring the following year. The sea squill (Urginea maritime) was regarded as a species belonging to this genus. This plant was often used in folk medicine, but is no longer recommended because of its proven toxicity.

The snowdrop grows in damp beech or alder forests, alpine meadows, and cool places in Italy, France, northeastern Spain, and across Europe and western Asia. It is literally a one of a kind species in this genus, and the name Galanthus refers to the colour of the flower, white as snow. Its many lovely common names refer to the fact that it flowers very early, in winter, so it is often found in clearings in the snow. It is called bucaneve in Italian and perce-neige in French and campanilla de las nieves in Spanish. Its bulb contains alkaloids that are toxic for the heart, like many other species in this botanical family, the amaryllidaceae. It is an ornamental plant. Dioscorides does not mention this plant in his work.

Ramón Morales Valverde
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
(Extract from the commentary volume of Mattioli's Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo)

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