Hyacinth (plant)

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This article is about the genus of flowers. For Hyacinth, the Greek hero whose blood became the Hyacinth plant, see Hyacinth (mythology).
"Hyacinthus" redirects here. For other uses, see Hyacinthus (disambiguation).
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.

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 through Lebanon and Syria to northern Israel/Palestine), Iraq, 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 the word "hyacinth" in them. Hyacinths should also not be confused with the genus Muscari, which are commonly known as grape hyacinths.


Hyacinthus grows from bulbs, each producing around four to six linear leaves and one to three spikes or 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]


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] among other possibilities.) 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]


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.


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 grown 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 and yellow. A form of the common hyacinth is the less hardy and smaller blue- or white-petalled Roman hyacinth of florists. These flowers need indirect sunlight and should be watered moderately.[citation needed]


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


Hyacinths on a Haft-Seen table

Hyacinths are often associated with spring and 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?]


The colour of the blue flower hyacinth plant varies between 'mid-blue'[11] = violet blue and bluish purple. Within this range, can be found, Persenche, which is an American colour name (probably from French), for a hyacinth hue.[12] The colour analysis of Persenche is 73% ultramarine, 9% red and 18% white.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stevens, P.F., 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, retrieved 2013-03-20 
  11. ^ name=Mathew, Brian (1987), The Smaller Bulbs, London: B.T. Batsford, ISBN 978-0-7134-4922-8
  12. ^ https://people.csail.mit.edu/jaffer/Color/M.htm.
  13. ^ Funk & Wagnell's New Standard Dictionary (1942), under spectrum colour list.

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]