GRAPE HYACINTH

COMMON NAME:  grape hyacinth
GENUS:  Muscari
SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS,
M. armeniacum ‘Early Giant’-blue
M.a. ‘Blue Spike’-up to 12-inch blossoms.
M. a. ‘White Beauty’-white.
M. botryoides-pure white.
FAMILY:  Liliaceae
BLOOMS:  early spring
TYPE:  perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Most grape hyacinths grow 6 to 8 inches tall and produce spikes full of round, almost closed blossoms. They spread about 3 inches and have foliage that is long, narrow and grasslike.
CULTIVATION:  Grape hyacinths come from small bulbs, which should be planted 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. For best effect, the bulbs should be planted in quantities. They are particularly effective under trees or shrubs. Grape hyacinth does equally well in full sun or partial shade. The leaves should be left to die back naturally after the flowers bloom.

Some species of the genus Muscari have a sweet, musky scent, and this is the reason for the name, for Muscari is from the Greek word moschos, or “musk.” Many gardeners originally grew the plant for its scent and not its beauty. The species name botryoides is also from Greek and means “a bunch of grapes.” This, along with the plant’s physical resemblance to the hyacinth, gives us the common name, grape hyacinth.
M. botryoides is also called the starch hyacinth, for it smells like starch.

Muscari_armeniacum2

Grape hyacinths are native to southern Europe, Northern Africa, and western Asia. The small bulbs have been used extensively in cooking. It has been suggested that boiled in vinegar {to reduce the bitterness}, the bulbs of M. comosa and M. atlanticum can be made into very tasty pickles. Other species are so bitter that they have earned the name Bulbus vomitorium. The first-century Greek physician Discorides wrote, “of this wort it is said that it was produced out of dragon’s blood, on top of mountains, in thick forests.”

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