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The Hyacinth Family: Hyacinthaceae

The Hyacinthaceae is the family of hyacinths and related plants. Members of the giant group Lilianae, the hyacinths are mostly bulbous plants. The flowers are bisexual and quite regular; they characteristically appear in umbels or spikes at the top of a leafless stalk, the scape. The leaves are all produced from the base of the plant; most species are deciduous. (Discussion based on V.H. Heywood, "Flowering Plants of the World" Mayflower Books, New York, 1978.)

The older usage of the family Liliaceae was an all-inclusive collection of plants that are considered in most recent classifications to belong to many families in at least two orders, Asparagales and Liliales. The Hyacinthaceae are now considered part of the Asparagales.

Besides the familiar Dutch hybrid hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis), other members of this family include bluebells (Hyacinthoides), squill (Scilla), star of bethlehem (Ornithogalum), grape hyacinth (Muscari). Cape hyacinths (Lachenalia) are from South Africa, as are the Massonia, Daubenya, Resnova, and many others.

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James E. Shields,

Last revised: 07 January 2010

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