Have you heard of galanthomania? It’s an affliction that can rob people of their money – and, it seems, their senses. They’re so desperate to get hold of some small white stuff that they’ll part with hundreds of pounds at a time – or even resort to theft.
Galanthomaniacs are people who collect snowdrops, often more kindly called galanthophiles. I wrote about this addiction in the magazine recently, but this week the record for the most expensive snowdrop was broken yet again. Someone shelled out £1,390 (plus £4 postage, which seems rather cheap: you’d expect a plant that expensive to turn up with a police escort) on eBay for Galanthus plicatus ‘Golden Fleece’. This tiny little snowdrop might, to someone trudging past it in a wet, cold garden, look like any other snowdrop. But it is in fact the first fully pterugiform (the shape of the flower) snowdrop, and took Joe Sharman 10 years to create. It does look rather pretty, with lime-green splashes on its outer petals. And someone clearly thought this was worth paying over £1,000 for it.
Now, all this must sound a little silly to anyone who isn’t a galanthophile. I’m certainly not one, though I do find at this time of the year that snowdrops stop me feeling doleful when I’m trudging through the rain. But as I wrote last year in the Telegraph, these funny hobbies that people have of collecting flowers that look identical to an untrained eye, or stockpiling old milk bottles or swapping medals, are often a sign that those involved are quite comfortable in themselves. They’re not seeking anyone else’s approval by doing things they’re told are fun. After all, people spend many hundreds of pounds going to music festivals, buying surfboards or even just flashy clothes, and no-one thinks they’re weird – except, of course, the people collecting snowdrops, who believe they’ve found something far more satisfying to spend their money on.