Sunday, March 4, 2018

Plant profile: Scilla peruviana (Portuguese Squill)

Latin name: Scilla peruviana ("SILL-ah peh-roo-vee-AH-na")
Common name: Giant Scilla, Portuguese Squill, Cuban Lily, Hyacinth of Peru
Originally from: The western Mediterranean region in Iberia, Italy, and northwest Africa.
Blooms: Gorgeous purple and blue flowers, about 4-5" across, are held above strappy green foliage in late winter/early spring
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Rain is plenty. They say it needs moderate water... but we don't do that and it's been fine!
Height x width: 18"x12"
Zones: 7-10
Where to find in P. Garden: We have one bulb in the brights bed. I'd like more.

Carolus Clusius,
not good with names
Carolus Clusius named this plant Hyacinthus stellatus peruanus in the 16th century Apparently Clusius thought the bulbs came from Peru, but really they came via a ship called "Peru," so that was awkward... nobody called him on it, but Linnaeus went ahead and renamed the species in 1753 as Scilla peruviana, keeping the reference to Peru as an obvious dig. Botanists, as we know, are notorious for casting shade on each other. What a cutthroat science!

The common names for this include Hyacinth of Peru, Peruvian Lily and Star of Peru, which really don't help, and names such as Caribbean Lily and Cuban Lily came about because this plant has naturalized in these areas. Again, not helpful.

Then there's a whole lot of DNA evidence that this and other Scilla actually should have new or resurrected genera names. This bulb, for example, has the name Oncostema peruviana proposed.

At this level of malarkey, it seems like anyone can jump in, so I think I can propose my own name. I hate inaccuracies, so let's go with Oncostema lusitanica. I'm going to inform, um, whoever is in charge of... all this... and I'll let you know what happens...

Anyway, it's flowering NOW - early March - and you should see it. Gorgeous! Plant a few in your garden - it's unusual and makes a lovely bright spot in late winter.

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