Grape Hyacinth – Muscari racemosum or Muscari neglectum

Grape/Starch Hyacinth
Grape/Starch Hyacinth

This little wild flower is one of spring’s most loved bulb plants. Being native to southwestern Asia and the Mediterranean region it was imported to North America and become naturalized. It is very popular in rock garden and spreads through fields with great abandon!

For quite a long time these flowers were in use in Italy for dyeing purposes, only falling out of favor around WWII. Some research carried out brought to light dyeing customs of Holy Week. Wild Muscari neglectum, picked at the beginning of spring and boiled with Easter eggs dyes them a purplish blue. In Trentino-Alto Adige Muscari racemosum was also used to dye the eggs purplish.

Many species of Muscari have been used medicinally for the medical benefit as diuretics and stimulants. The bulbs have reportedly been cooked and eaten, although this may not be a wise practice due to the presence of Comisic acid (which is said to act like saponin) in the bulb.

Some people describe the scent of the flowers as wet starch, and from this came another of its common names, Starch Hyacinth. Others describe the scent as more plum-like. Whichever you believe is fine by me since I must have had a bad sinus day when I took these pictures standing in a field of the flowers. I never really noticed the scent, even when I broke off one of the small clusters and deliberately smelled them!

The Hyacinth being sacred to Apollo is a plant used for protection and love.

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