I’m back in Florida again, so as soon as I entered a supermarket, I noticed a potted Hyacinthus. I had no idea it was so fragrant. So I decided to write a post.
Hyacinthus orientalis (Common Hyacinth) Aka Dutch Hyacinthus, Garden Hyacinthus, or Jacinto (in Spanish), is native to Turkey and the Middle East, and along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Hardy to USDA zones 3a to 7b. All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction, and pollen may cause allergic reaction also.Hyacinths were grown in Europe in the time of the Greeks and Romans. Both Homer and Virgil noted their sweet fragrance. After this, the Hyacinth faded from history and did not reappear until the 16th century when it was reintroduced into Western Europe from Turkey and Iran. Leonhardt Rauwolf, (a German doctor) collected some Hyacinths when he visited Turkey in 1573. Hyacinths have been cultivated commercially since the second half of the 16th century. They became very popular in 18th and early 19th century Europe.
Hyacinthus orientalis is a spring flowering bulb that produces spikes of flowers noted for their intense, often overpowering, fragrance. Typically grows 6-10” tall. Each bulb sends up 3-4 strap-shaped green leaves in early spring and a stiff densely flowered spike of extremely fragrant tubular flowers. In the U.S., Hyacinthus is considered to belong to the Asparagaceae family, but in other countries, it’s grouped with the Liliaceae family.
Etymology of Hyanthus: in the 1550s, “the plant hyacinth;” re-Greeked from jacinth (late 14c.) “jacinth” meant “blue cornflower,” which earlier was the name of a precious stone blue (rarely red) in color (c. 1200), from Old French “jacinte” and Medieval Latin “jacintus”, ultimately from Greek hyakinthos, which is probably ultimately from a non-Indo-European Mediterranean language. The flower is said to have the letters “AI” or “AIAI” (Greek cry of grief) on its petals. The modern use in reference to a particular flowering plant genus is from 1570s (read more at https://goo.gl/bWboIh). Genus name also tends to be associated with the rebirth of vegetation like Adonis.
(The Death of Hyancinthus by Jean Broc 1801) An ancient Greek legend describes the origin of the Hyacinth, a myth of homosexual relationships. Two of the gods, Apollo and Zephyr, adored a handsome young Greek called Hyakinthos. Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus. Zephyr, who was the god of the west wind, was overwhelmed with jealousy and he blew the discus back. It struck Hyakinthos on the head and killed him. From his blood grew a flower, which the sun god Apollo named after him.
The Death of Hyacinth by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1752)
Hyacinthus orientalis L. Collection des vélins du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, vol. 9: t. 26 () [unsigned]