Loddon lily Leucojum aestivum Leucojum is known in Bulgaria under many names but the official name "blatno kokiche" translate into English as "marsh snowdrop". It is named "marsh", because for its growth it needs high humidity.
The generic name derives from Greek leucos meaning "white" as its prime color and species name aestivum - "summer" which connects with its time of flowering. In English the common names for this species include Loddon lily, summer snowflake, snowbell, dewdrop, and St. Agnes' flower.
The loddon lily grows in wet meadows, swamps and marshy areas or in wet riparian forests. In Bulgaria it can be found in the Danube Plain, northeastern Bulgaria, the Black Sea coast, Tundzha hilly plain, Thracian Valley, Western Rhodopes, Struma valley, Sofia and Vitosha area.
Leucojum aestivum is a perennial bulbous plant from the family Amaryllidaceae. The bulb is small, 2-3 cm in diameter, ovoid. It is covered with gray-brown shell of old leaves. The plant can reach a height of 60 cm, the stem is flattened. The leaves are 2-6 in number, linear, narrow, with blunt tip. The flowers appear first in April and May, usually 3-7 in number, located on top of the stem. The petals are white, oval, with yellowish green stain, emitting strong pleasant smell. The fruit box is spherical and the seeds are cylindrical and black.
During the years this marsh plant has acquired greater prominence and importance. The overhead fraction, which is collected at the time of flowering, is used for extracting the alkaloid galanthamine. It is base for the Bulgarian medicine Nivalin, which is used in the treatment of infantile paralysis (polio), diseases of the peripheral and central nervous system, neuritis, neuralgia. The creator of the medicine prof. Dr. Dimitar Paskov discovered the special properties of the Leucojum aestivum accidentally: a girl suffering from polio drank a glass of water in which were soaked marsh snowdrops brought by her parents and placed on the table beside the bed. After this accident the girl's condition improved. A method of treating Alzheimer's disease with involvement of galantamine has been patented in 1987.
The plant is poisonous, so self treatment it is dangerous. Furthermore galantamine contains other highly poisonous alkaloids that can cause fatal consequences. Even people who collect Loddon lilly should not have injuries anywhere on the hands.
Today, there are no natural deposits of Leucojum aestivum in Bulgaria that are large enough for industrial use. Artificial cultures have been grown in places with appropriate conditions. The species is not protected by the Biodiversity Act, but is under special regime of use.