Hyacinth (plant)

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Hyacinth
Hyacinth - Anglesey Abbey.jpg
Cultivar of Hyacinthus orientalis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Scilloideae
Genus: Hyacinthus
Tourn. ex L.
species

Hyacinthus litwinowii
Hyacinthus orientalis
Hyacinthus transcaspicus

Hyacinthus is a small genus of bulbous flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae.[1] Plants are commonly called hyacinths /ˈhəsɪnθs/. The genus is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey to northern Israel), north-east Iran, and Turkmenistan.[2]

Several species of Brodiea, Scilla, and other plants that were formerly classified in the lily family and have flower clusters borne along the stalk also have common names with hyacinth in them. Hyacinths should also not be confused with the genus Muscari, which are commonly known as grape hyacinths.

Description[edit]

Hyacinthus grows from bulbs, each producing around four to six linear leaves and one to three spikes (racemes) of flowers. In the wild species, the flowers are widely spaced, with as few as two per raceme in H. litwinovii and typically six to eight in H. orientalis, which grows to a height of 15–20 cm (6–8 in). Cultivars of H. orientalis have much denser flower spikes and are generally more robust.[3]

Systematics[edit]

The genus name Hyacinthus was attributed to Joseph Pitton de Tournefort when used by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.[2] It is derived from a Greek name used for a plant by Homer, Ὑάκινθος (Hyakinthos), the flowers supposedly having grown up from the blood of a youth of this name accidentally killed by the god Apollo.[4] (The original wild plant known as hyakinthos to Homer has been identified with Scilla bifolia.[5]) Linnaeus defined the genus Hyacinthus widely to include species now placed in other genera of the subfamily Scilloideae, such as Muscari (e.g. his Hyacinthus botryoides)[6] and Hyacinthoides (e.g. his Hyacinthus non-scriptus).[7]

Hyacinthus was formerly the type genus of the separate family Hyacinthaceae; prior to that the genus was placed in the lily family Liliaceae.[8]

Species[edit]

Three species are placed within the genus Hyacinthus:[2]

Some authorities place H. litwonovii and H. transcaspicus in the related genus Hyacinthella,[9] which would make Hyacinthus a monotypic genus.

Cultivation[edit]

The Dutch, or Common Hyacinth of house and garden culture (H. orientalis, native to southwest Asia) was so popular in the 18th century that over 2,000 cultivars were cultivated in the Netherlands, its chief commercial producer. This hyacinth has a single dense spike of fragrant flowers in shades of red, blue, white, orange, pink, violet, or yellow. A form of the common hyacinth is the less hardy and smaller blue- or white-petalled Roman hyacinth of florists. These flowers should have indirect sunlight and are to be moderately watered.[citation needed]

Toxicity[edit]

Hyacinth bulbs are poisonous; they contain oxalic acid. Handling hyacinth bulbs can cause mild skin irritation. Protective gloves are recommended.[10]

Culture[edit]

Hyacinths on a Haft-Seen table

Hyacinths are sometimes associated with rebirth. The hyacinth flower is used in the Haft-Seen table setting for the Persian New Year celebration, Nowruz, held during the Spring Equinox.[according to whom?]

In Greek mythology, Hyacinth was a beautiful youth loved by both the god Apollo and the West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns at throwing the discus. Hyacinth ran to catch it to impress Apollo, but he was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and died.[11] A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinth.[12] The youth's beauty caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo's discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinth. Apollo did not allow Hades to claim Hyacinth. Instead, Apollo made a flower, the hyacinth, from Hyacinth's spilled blood.

In Homer's Odyssey (Book 6.231), Athena gives Odysseus "thick locks, akin to the hyacinth (ὑακίνθινος) flower" in order to win his way into the city of the Phaeacians.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stevens, P.F. (2001 onwards), Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Scilloideae 
  2. ^ a b c World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2011-10-07 , search for "Hyacinthus" and its species
  3. ^ Beckett, K., ed. (1993), Encyclopaedia of Alpines : Volume 1 (A–K), Pershore, UK: AGS Publications, ISBN 978-0-900048-61-6  pp. 656–657.
  4. ^ Hyam, R. & Pankhurst, R.J. (1995), Plants and their names : a concise dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-866189-4 
  5. ^ Lindsell, Alice, "Was Theocritus a botanist?",   in Raven, John E. (2000), Plants and Plant Lore in Ancient Greece, Oxford: Leopard's Head Press, ISBN 978-0-904920-40-6 , p. 68
  6. ^ "Hyacinthus botryoides", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2013-03-20 
  7. ^ "Hyacinthus non-scriptus", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2013-03-20 
  8. ^ Hyacinthaceae, Tolweb.org, retrieved 2011-03-20 
  9. ^ Czerepanov, S.K. (1995), Vascular Plants of Russia and Adjacent States (the Former USSR), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-45006-5 , cited in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2011-10-07 , under Hyacinthella litwinovii and Hyacinthella transcaspica
  10. ^ "Home Forcing of Hyacinths", North Carolina State University Horticulture Information Leaflets, retrieved 2013-03-20 
  11. ^ pseudo-Apollodorus, i. 3.3
  12. ^ Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods; Servius, commentary on Virgil Eclogue iii. 63; Philostratus, Imagines i. 24; Ovid Metamorphoses x. 184

Further reading[edit]

  • Coccoris, Patricia (2012) The Curious History of the Bulb Vase. Published by Cortex Design.

External links[edit]