Grape-hyacinths

Armenian Grape-hyacinth Tassel Hyacinth Compact Grape-hyacinth Common Grape-hyacinth

What are they?

Related to the bluebells and squills in the Asparagaceae family, Grape-hyacinths are familiar as garden plants, where the tight heads of rounded flowers like little bunches of grapes are a common sight in spring. Most species are native to the warmer, southern parts of Europe and eastward into Central Asia.

Where are they found?

Some species do well as garden plants and readily spread onto nearby roadsides and waste ground, while planted populations in churchyards soon spread beyond their original locations. One species has at times been considered native in Breckland but there is little good evidence to support this.

Identification

The identification of most plants is straight forward with careful attention to precise flower shape and any differences in flower colour within the spike from top to bottom. The upper flowers in the flowering spikes are sterile and may be the same colour, or a different colour to the rest of the spike.



Armenian Grape-hyacinth      Muscari armeniacum

Widespread and common as a garden plant and frequently spreading into all kinds of grassy places, roadsides and similar habitats. Flowers April to May. Flowers bright blue throughout the spike, each flower being slightly elongate and not fully spherical. Plants produce plenty of leaves, which are linear and grass-like, but are u-shaped in cross-section and rounded, not keeled on the back.

Armenian Grape-hyacinth Armenian Grape-hyacinth Armenian Grape-hyacinth Armenian Grape-hyacinth
Habit
Flower spikes
Flower spike
Leaf section


Common Grape-hyacinth      Muscari neglectum

Considered native in dry, sandy grassland in Breckland by some authorities but also found as a garden escape on grassy roadside verges elsewhere in the region. Flowers April to May. Flowers bright blue at the top of the spike and indigo or violet-blue toward the base, each flower being slightly elongate and not fully spherical. Leaves all green, linear, u-shaped in cross-section and rounded, not keeled on the back.

Common Grape-hyacinth Common Grape-hyacinth Common Grape-hyacinth Common Grape-hyacinth
Habit
Flower spike
Flower spike
Flowers close-up


Compact Grape-hyacinth      Muscari botryoides

Much less common as a garden plant than either of the above two species and only rarely found as a garden escape. Flowers April to May. Flowers bright blue throughout the spike, each flower being more or less fully spherical. Leaves all green, linear, u-shaped in cross-section and rounded, not keeled on the back. The true species is blue, but white-flowered forms are also grown in gardens and may sometimes be found in the wider countryside.

Compact Grape-hyacinth Compact Grape-hyacinth
Flowers
White form


Tassel Hyacinth      Muscari comosum

Rather rare as a garden plant but very occasionally reported as a garden stray in grassy places. Flowers April to May. Lower (fertile) flowers olive and purple with a 'tassel' of bright purple, sterile flowers at the top of the spike. Flower spikes are compact at first but gradually elongate as the flowers mature and may reach 30cm in length.

Tassel Hyacinth Tassel Hyacinth Tassel Hyacinth
Flower spike
Flower spike
Flowers