This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Wild Hyacinth. Blue-bell.
- Liliaceae. The name is derived from the Greek, Kalathos, a cup, in allusion to the form of the flower.
After the daisy, buttercup and primrose, few wild flowers are better known than the Blue-bell or Wild Hyacinth. In the very earliest days of spring its leaves break through the earth and lay in rosette fashion close to the surface, leaving a circular tube through which the spike of pale unopened buds soon arises. A few premature individuals may be seen in full flower at quite an early date; but it is not until spring is fully and fairly with us that we can look through the woods under the trees and see millions of them swaying like a blue mist; or, as Tennyson has finely and truly worded it, "that seem the heavens upbreaking through the earth." This must not be confounded with the Blue-bell of Scotland, which is Campanula rotundifolia (see page 78).
If we dig up an entire specimen we shall find that, like the hyacinth of the florist, its foundation is a roundish bulb, in this case somewhat less than an inch in diameter at its stoutest part. The leaves have parallel sides, or, as the botanist would say, they are linear; and before the plant has done flowering they have reached the length of a foot or more, whilst the flower-stalk is nearly as long again. Before the flowers open the buds are all erect, but these gradually assume a drooping attitude; though when the seeds are ripening the capsule again becomes erect.
The flower is an elongated bell, showing no distinction between calyx and corolla; it is therefore called a perianth. It consists of six floral leaves, joined together at their bases, the free portions curling back and disclosing the six yellow anthers, which are attached to the sides of the perianth, one to each segment. The ovary is surmounted by the thread-like style, ending in a minute stigma. The capsule is three-celled, and when the seeds are ripe each cell splits down the side to release the shining black seeds.
The Genus Scilla belongs to the Natural Order Liliaceae; its name is classical, and probably derived from the Greek Skyllo, to annoy, in allusion to the bulbs being poisonous. There are two other native species:The Vernal Squill (S. vernalis). Flower-scapes, one or two, not so long as leaves. Like S. nutans, it has a couple of long bracts at the base of the pedicels, as the short stalks are called, which connect the flowers with the tall scape. This is a rare plant, occurring only in rocky pastures near the west coast from Flint to Devon; also Ayr and Berwick to Shetland, and in the E. and N.E. of Ireland. April and May.
The Autumnal Squill (S.autumnalis) throws up several flower-scapes before the leaves. Flowers, reddish-purple, not drooping, but spreading or erect; July to September in dry pastures from Gloucester to Cornwall, from Middlesex to Kent. No bracts.