Hyacinthus is a small genus of bulbous, fragrant flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae. These are commonly called hyacinths //. The genus is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from the south of Turkey through to northern part of the region of Palestine).
|Cultivar of Hyacinthus orientalis|
Tourn. ex L.
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.
The genus name Hyacinthus was attributed to Joseph Pitton de Tournefort when used by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. It is derived from a Greek name used for a plant by Homer, ὑάκινθος (hyákinthos), the flowers supposedly having grown up from the blood of a youth of this name accidentally killed by the god Apollo. (The original wild plant known as hyakinthos to Homer has been identified with Scilla bifolia, 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) and Hyacinthoides (e.g. his Hyacinthus non-scriptus).
Three species are placed within the genus Hyacinthus:
- Hyacinthus litwinovii
- Hyacinthus orientalis - common, Dutch or garden hyacinth
- Hyacinthus transcaspicus
The genus Hyacinthus is considered native to the eastern Mediterranean, including Turkey, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestine region. It is widely naturalized elsewhere, including Europe (the Netherlands, France, Sardinia, Italy, Sicily, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Cyprus), Korea, North America (United States and Canada) and central Mexico, Cuba and Haiti.
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 or 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.
Some members of the Scilloideae sub-family of plants are commonly called hyacinths but are not members of the Hyacinthus genus and are edible; one example is the tassel hyacinth, which forms part of the cuisine of some Mediterranean countries.
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 at the Spring Equinox. The Persian word for hyacinth is سنبل (sonbol).
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
In Roman Catholic tradition, the hyacinth represents prudence, constancy, desire of heaven and peace of mind; and is derived from the story of Hyacinthus, upon whose death the flower sprung forth.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hyacinthus orientalis.|
White and purple hyacinth cultivars in Detroit, Michigan
The color of the blue flower hyacinth plant varies between 'mid-blue' = violet blue and bluish purple. Within this range can be found Persenche, which is an American color name (probably from French), for a hyacinth hue. The color analysis of Persenche is 73% ultramarine, 9% red and 18% white.
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