"THE grass is spangled with thy silver drops," wrote the 18th century poet Charlotte Turner Smith in a tribute to the snowdrop.

Another contemporary described this wonderful winter flower as "a beauteous gem" that springs forth "amid the bare and chilling gloom".

Such poetic prose buzzed across my mind as I hunkered down to examine a clump of snowdrops in woodland by Gartmorn Dam last week.

The snowdrop is a wild plant that has inspired writers and poets for generations, a shining light against the dark barren winter soil.

It is a flower with a white virginal purity that sings and dances; a marker that spring is on its way and that other flowers will soon burst into bloom.

But despite the fragile beauty of the petals, the snowdrop is an incredibly tough little plant able to withstand the hardest of frosts and being buried in the snow for days on end.

In some parts of the country, the snowdrop is known as the "snow-piercer" because of the way it pushes its emerging spear through the snow, aided by a protective sheath that covers the tip of the flowering stem.

Down by the River Devon, snowdrops on the bankside often have to endure surging floods, but the crushed flowers and bent stems usually revive themselves into at least a passing resemblance of their former glory once the waters have receded.

No doubt, these flash floods will also dislodge bulbs and carry them to new growing sites further downstream.

There are other signs of emerging plant-life by the Devon, including white butterbur and ramsons.

White butterbur is a non-native species that flowers first, before their large flat leaves unfurl.

The first indications of ramsons (wild garlic) are their tiny shoots poking through the ground.

As I examined a scattering of ramson shoots last week, it was impossible to resist the temptation of brushing my fingertips against their vibrant freshness.

I knew these little green spears were ramsons because every spring this little patch of bankside sparkles with their white blousy blooms; the air hanging heavy with a wonderful pungent, garlicky aroma.

For now, they were just little slivers of glowing life, but in the coming months they will burst forth with astonishing verdancy, their broad, elongated leaves enveloping the ground in a lime-tinted sea.