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 Scilla subsp. var.  Bluebell, Squill
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
Habit: bulbous
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
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USDA Zones: to
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Flower features:
Hyacinthaceae > Scilla var. ,

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Scilla (pronounced /ˈsɪlə/; Squill),[1] is a genus of about 50[2] bulb-forming perennial herbs in the hyacinth family native to woodlands, subalpine meadows, and seashores throughout Europe and Asia. Their flowers are usually blue, but white, pink, and purple types are known; most flower in early spring, but a few are autumn-flowering.

Many species, notably S. siberica, are grown in gardens for their attractive early spring flowers.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Scilla (the old Greek name used by Hippocrates: I injure, according to Miller, alluding to the poisonous bulbs). Liliaceae. Squill. Wild Hyacinth. Bluebell. Perennial bulbous plants remarkable for easy culture, quick growth and beautiful blue, rose, or white flowers, blooming early in the spring (some in autumn), and therefore desirable plants for the wild-garden, rock-garden, or border; they are very useful in pots for midwinter flowers for window-boxes and for room-decoration; some are stove plants; some of the South African forms have handsome spotted foliage.

Bulb tunicated, large or small: lvs. radical, 1 to several in number, linear, loriform, lanceolate, oblong or nearly ovate, in Scilla autumnalis appearing after the fls.: scape 1 to several, simple, leafless: fls. in racemes, which are several- to many-fld., open, compact or spicate; bracts small, sometimes minute, hyaline: pedicels short or long, sometimes filiform: fls. small or middle-sized (1 in. across), segms. of perianth distinct, perianth blue, porcelain-blue, rose-colored or whitish, open-rotate, cylindric-campanulate, or open-campanulate, segms. persistent for some time; stamens 6, affixed at base or below the middle of the segms.; anthers ovate or oblong, dehiscing longitudinally, introrse; ovary sessile, stigma small, capitate; ovules 2 in each locule, rarely 8-10, ascending: caps. globose; seeds 1-2 in each cell, rarely more; testa black, appressed; embryo small in albumen. —About 80 species, widely distributed in Eu., Asia, and Afr. in temperate districts. The genus is distinguished from Ornithogalum chiefly by the color of the fls. and deciduous perianth, from Hyacinthus by the segms. distinct from the base or very nearly so. Great Britain possesses 3 species of Scilla, S. verna, S. autumnalis, and S. nonscripta, while Germany has, in addition to S. autumnalis, 3 others, viz., S. amoena, S. bifolia, and S. italica. For S. Fraseri, see Camassia.

Among the early flowers there is none more valuable than the scillas. They vary considerably in form of flower and foliage, and although typically they have blue or blue-purple flowers, most, if not all, of the species in cultivation have white and red-purple forms. S. sibirica and S. bifolia are the earliest to flower, and of these forms the Asia Minor or Taurian kinds are in advance. The form of S. sibirica known as multiflora is nearly past before the usual type begins to expand. There is also sometimes cultivated in the garden a pleasing white scilla, with hyacinth-like flowers, known to the trade as S. amoena. But these white forms are mostly oddities; the effective ones are the blue-flowering kinds. Occasional hybrids between scillas and chionodoxas are met with (see page 749). Chionoscilla Alleni is the accepted name for a natural hybrid between Chionodoxa Luciliae and Scilla bifolia, first obtained by Mr. Allen, of England, in 1891.

None of the hardy squills requires special culture, and if planted where they can remain undisturbed for a series of years, they seldom disappoint one if the soil is occasionally enriched by top-dressings of manure. The writer has grown them distributed in the grass of the lawn for a number of years with considerable success. The bulbs should be planted as early as possible in autumn. The varieties may be increased by offsets taken after the foliage has matured. For the cool greenhouse or conservatory, many of the scillas are ideal subjects. For this culture, five or six bulbs may be put in a 5-inch pot and the vessel afterward transferred to a coldframe and covered until growth commences. Up to this period very little water will be required, but as the flower-cluster appears the quantity should be increased and the pots transferred to the greenhouse, giving them a position near the glass. The foliage matured, the bulbs may be shaken out of the soil and stored. More attention should be paid to the propagation of the scillas by commercial dealers, for these bulbs should become one of the features of the wild-garden in early spring.

The Urginea Scilla, sometimes called Scilla maritima, needs to be mentioned in this connection on account of its yielding a medicine for many centuries held in esteem. Almost everyone is familiar with sirup of squills, and has obtained relief from its use in severe colds. The scales of the bulb contain mucilage, sinistrin, sugar, and crystals of calcium oxalate (stated by botanists to ward off snails); the active principles are scillipicrin, scillitoxin, and scillin (the latter producing numbness, vomiting, and the like). Scilla bulbs or roots should never be used unless under proper direction, as in their fresh state they are extremely acrid, and might prove dangerous.

The trade names are considerably confused. Many of the so-called horticultural species and races may be united as mere varieties of species that have been defined botanically. The following names are thought to include all those in the American trade, but other species are known to fanciers.

S. axillaris, C. H. Wright. Of robust habit: lvs. 1 ft. long, 2 1/2 in. broad: raceme many-fld.: perianth-segms. white outside with green keel, bright violet edged with white inside. Hab.(?).—S. cilicica, Siehe. Bulb bluish violet: lvs. 4-8 in. long, about 1/2 in. broad at apex: scape slightly taller than lvs.: pedicels one-half as long as fls.: fls. 2-6, bright blue, often tinged with violet; filaments white, thread-like. Asia Minor. G.C. III. 44:194, desc.CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ZipcodeZoo

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