Its innocent white blossoms, fresh in spring, cannot be seen to suggest that snowdrops have it as thick as a fist. Behind their bold appearance hides a toxic level of concern. Thus, for the responsible home gardener with a family garden, the question is quite legitimate: Are snowdrops poisonous for humans, cats or dogs? A well-founded answer should not only be known to the hobby gardener, because we encounter the busy mass bloomers in the wild over many weeks in abundance. Read all information about the ingredients and how the toxicity is to be assessed here


  • Assigned to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae)
  • Genus snowdrop (Galanthus) with more than 25 species
  • Native herbaceous bulb flower
  • Heights of 5 to 35 cm
  • Lanceolate, narrow, basal leaves
  • Terminal, nodding, white-green flowers
  • Flowering period from January / February to March / April
  • Small capsule fruits with 3.5 mm small, brown seeds
  • Popular names: milk flower, white virgin

When snowdrops were nearly extinct in the wild, they were placed under nature conservation just in time. Since then, their occurrence has recovered significantly, so that the white, nodding flowers are back to the usual appearance in the forests of Europe.

Questionable ingredients

Belonging to the poisonous amaryllis family, snowdrops should also be viewed with caution. All parts of the plant contain divergent alkaloids. These are organic compounds that occur in ten thousand variations in the plant world. The deadly alkaloid colchicine in autumn crops also belongs to this category, as does caffeine in coffee plants or the super-hot capsaicin in peppers. The simple presence of alkaloids in a plant does not necessarily imply that there is a health hazard. The type of alkaloid is just as relevant as the level of concentration. The following conditions apply to snowdrops:

  • The flower bulbs contain a high concentration of the poisonous Amaryllidaceae alkaloid
  • Leaves, shoots and flowers contain small amounts of galantamine, lycorin and tazettin

Due to their chemical composition, the question of whether snowdrops are poisonous can be answered in a nutshell: All Galanthus species are poisonous in different ways. The onions have the highest toxin content, while the herbaceous parts of the plant have a slight toxin content.
Consumption causes symptoms of intoxication

The toxins found in snowdrops are explicitly harmful to health after consumption. People, cats and dogs are equally affected. The symptoms of poisoning are expressed as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Heavy sweats
  • Nausea with vomiting
  • Violent abdominal cramps
  • Increased salivation
  • diarrhea
  • Racing heart
  • Signs of paralysis

So far, no scientifically sound knowledge has been obtained about the critical dose. Experience shows that people experience the first symptoms after consuming 3 snowdrop onions. For small cats and puppies, the ailments start after 1 to 2 bulbs or 3 to 4 leaves.

Tip : The poisonous content in the bulbs and, to a lesser extent, in the leaves does not mean that you have to do without the subtle scent of flowers. Sniffing snowdrops is possible without hesitation.

Immediate action in humans

If you accidentally or intentionally eat 3 or fewer flower bulbs, the Bonn Poison Center recommends the following first aid measures:

  • The intake of plenty of fluids
  • Ideally, drink carbonated water or chamomile tea

If there is any uncertainty about the amount of snowdrops actually consumed, the doctor should be consulted. In any case, a medical consultation is strongly recommended if it is a toddler or an elderly person. The doctor decides how to proceed, such as taking a charcoal preparation or detoxifying in the hospital.

Immediate action in cats and dogs

If there are signs of snowdrop poisoning in pets, the first step should be to contact the vet by telephone. If it is to be feared that your dog or cat has eaten a large amount of onions, it is best to go to the vet without delay. Ideally, you should take a sample of the plant with you so that there are no doubts about the origin of the toxins. The more specific countermeasures can be initiated by the veterinarian.

Tip : Lilies of the valley look very similar to snowdrops and are significantly more poisonous. In 2014 the lily of the valley was named poisonous plant of the year to draw attention to its high toxicity.


Since snowdrops have been under nature protection, their occurrence in the wild has visibly recovered. If you want to be able to identify the flowers beyond doubt on the way, you should be informed about these identifying features:

  • 2 to 3 narrow, linear, green leaves thrive at the base
  • A 5 to 30 cm high flower stem with a terminal flower sprouts
  • A nodding flower has 3 white bracts on the outside and 3 green-white bracts on the inside
  • A 1 to 2 cm small, spherical to oval onion acts as a persistence organ

Under normal weather conditions, the flowering period extends from February to April. After a mild winter, the first snowdrops can already be seen in January.


Snowdrop species are native to all of Europe. The distribution area extends from Asia Minor to the Caspian Sea. The small and large Galanthus look for a partially shaded, fresh, moist location in their habitats. They can therefore be found in clearings in forests as well as in embankments or in the middle of forest meadows. Under the protective canopy of tall trees, the heralds of spring feel so comfortable that they form thick carpets over the years.

Tips for cultivating in the garden

As the information on the poisonous content shows, snowdrops are not suitable for the family garden with children, cats or dogs. In a garden without children playing and curious pets, however, nothing speaks against planting the special heralds of spring. How to do it right are illustrated by the following tips:

Planting in the wire basket
By planting snowdrop bulbs in the wire basket, you protect them from voracious voles and other pests. At the same time, digging dogs or cats will not get to the poisonous tubers if they should ever get lost in your garden. That is how it goes:

  • When planting in autumn, dig 15 cm deep planting holes in the partially shaded location
  • Place a vole basket with an open lid in the middle
  • Fill in a 2 to 3 cm thick layer of sand as drainage
  • Put in the excavated material enriched with compost
  • Plant the snowdrop bulbs 7 to 8 cm deep in small tuffs

After you have pressed the earth for a good ground connection, the wire mesh lid can be closed. At the end of the day, please don’t forget to pour on.

Do not compost clippings
At the end of the flowering period, snowdrops move the remaining nutrients from the leaves into the bulbs. Only when this process is complete do you cut the foliage close to the ground. The clippings contain the toxins explained, so they should not be disposed of on the compost. Remnants of snowdrops should also not land on pastures or paddocks, as the effects of the toxins they contain on the animals cannot be assessed. It is better to bring the clippings to the local composting facility or throw them in the household waste. These precautions should also be taken for withered galanthus from vases or flower arrangements.

Tip : During all planting and care work on snowdrops, wearing gloves prevents direct skin contact with the poisonous plant juices.


With their magic white flowers, snowdrops hide the poisonous content. Toxic alkaloids are found in the highest concentration in the 1 to 2 cm small onions. The leaves, stems and flowers also contain substances of concern, such as the nauseating galanthamine. The harbingers of spring are therefore not suitable for the family garden with children, cats and dogs. In order to be prepared for an encounter in the wild, this information about appearance, occurrence and flowering time should be known. Sniffing is allowed, while intentional or unintentional consumption can lead to severe symptoms of intoxication. Therefore, snowdrop bulbs are always planted in a wire basket in the garden, which protects the flowers from pests and digging dogs and cats from hardship.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *