The pleasure of finding things out: Scilla lingulata

Recently, I wrote about how excited I was to acquire Scilla latifolia, and how I looked forward to learning more about this new-to-me bulb.

The latest bit I have learned about this plant is that I have the name all wrong. What I’m growing is Scilla lingulata (also known as Hyacinthoides lingulata). It is native to northern Africa and is hardy here. I’ve planted it out at the highest point in my rain garden.

Scilla lingulata, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Scilla lingulata, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Nancy also grows Scilla latifolia, which is not hardy.

The two plants look rather similar at first glance, except for their size, and I assumed I had obtained juvenile specimens. Scilla latifolia grows significantly larger, at 14 to perhaps 18 inches tall (35-50 cm), whereas S. lingulata is closer to 8-12 inches (20-30 cm). A more critical inspection reveals that the foliage of S. lingulata lies flatter and closer to the ground than S. latifolia, whose foliage is more upright, broader, and lies closer to the stem, almost like that of corn. The flowering raceme of S. latifolia is taller than that of S. lingulata, and its flowers’ peduncles (I think that’s the term) are longer and less rigid. S. lingulata looks a bit like S. latifolia might if it went through a hot-water wash and into the clothes dryer–a shrunken version of the original.

Perhaps I would have avoided this amateurish misclassification if I’d paid better attention to plant morphology in middle school biology class, but I’m learning it now when I can appreciate it. And being wiser now, I’m sure I’ll never make such a rookie mistake again (this week).

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