Flowers - Wild Hyacinth, Scilla or Squill
( Originally Published 1916 )
(Quamasia hyacinthina) Lily family
(Scilla Fraseri of Gray)
Flowers—Several or many, pale violet blue, or rarely white, in a long, loose raceme; perianth of 6 equal, narrowly oblong, widely spreading divisions, the thread-like filaments inserted at their bases; style thread-like, with 3-lobed stigma. Scape : 1 to 2 ft. high, from egg-shaped, nearly black bulb, 1 to 1/2 in. long. Leaves : Grass-like, shorter than flowering scape, from the base. Fruit: A 3-angled, oval capsule containing shining black seeds.
Preferred Habitat—Meadows, prairies, and along banks of streams.
Distribution—Pennsylvania and Ohio westward to Minnesota, south to Alabama and Texas.
Coming with the crocuses, before the snow is off the ground, and remaining long after their regal gold and purple chalices have withered, the Siberian scillas sold by seedsmen here deserve a place in every garden, for their porcelain-blue color is rare as it is charming; the early date when they bloom makes them especially welcome; and, once planted and left undisturbed, the bulbs increase rapidly, without injury from overcrowding. Evidently they need little encouragement to run wild. Nevertheless they are not wild scillas, however commonly they may be miscalled so. Certainly ladies' tresses, known as wild hyacinth in parts of New England, has even less right to the name.
Our true native wild hyacinth, or scilla, is quite a different flower, not so pure a blue as the Siberian scilla, and paler; yet in the middle West, where it abounds, there are few lovelier sights in spring than a colony of these blossoms directed obliquely upward from slender, swaying stapes among the lush grass. Their upward slant brings the stigma in immediate contact with an incoming visitor's pollen-laden body. As the stamens diverge with the spreading of the divisions of the perianth, to which they are attached, the stigma receives pollen brought from another flower, before the visitor dusts himself anew in searching for refreshment, thus effecting cross-pollination. Ants, bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles may be seen about the wild hyacinth, which is obviously best adapted to the bees. The smallest in-sects that visit it may possibly defeat Nature's plan and obtain nectar without fertilizing the flower, owing to the wide passage between stamens and stigma. In about an hour, one May morning, Professor Charles Robertson captured over six hundred insects, representing thirty-eight distinct species, on a patch of wild hyacinths in Illinois.
The bulb of a Mediterranean Scilla (S. maritima) furnishes the sourish-sweet syrup of squills used in medicine for bronchial troubles.
The Grape Hyacinth (Muscari botryoides), also known as Baby's Breath, because of its delicate faint fragrance, escapes from gardens at slight encouragement to grow wild in the roadsides and meadows from Massachusetts to Virginia and westward to Ohio. Its tiny, deep-blue, globular flowers, stiffly set around a fleshy scape that rises between erect, blade-like, channeled leaves, appear spring after spring wherever the small bulbs have been planted. On the east end of Long Island there are certain meadows literally blued with the little runaways.