Flower Glossaryflowers

Flower Glossary: Scilla Peruviana

by Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge Flower Glossary | Scilla Peruviana
There are flowers like peonies and roses that seem so soft and recognizable and then there are flowering plants like this, the wildly unique Scilla peruviana, that make you stop, stare and wonder what they are. As much as I appreciate a sweet, petal-filled peony, I’m becoming more drawn to flowers that make me ask questions, wonder where they originate and what function all of their interesting aspects serve.

Sprout Home had a beautiful vase of cut Scilla peruviana, or Portuguese squill, available last week, so we picked up a few to bring back to the DS office and photograph. Max and I both marveled at the quill-like centers of each flower, which are surrounded by a crown of delicate purple flowers. Native to northwest Africa and the Mediterrananeon, Scilla peruviana actually gets its name from a botanical naming error. While its scientific name means “of Peru,” the plant was actually discovered in Spain and delivered aboard a ship named Peru. The name stuck (apparently because the rules of botanical naming do not allow for a do-over) and now the world has over 80 species of Scilla that share similar qualities. The most common varieties of Scilla, like this peruviana, have 40-100 white, blue or violet flowers and can be found throughout the world during spring months. I think a tall mass of these is a great alternative to carnation or similarly tall and leggy blooms. So if you see these at your local florist or market, give them a shot! xo, grace

*Fun fact: Scilla peruviana is also known as a Cuban lily, Caribbean lily, hyacinth-of-Peru, Havana lily and Peruvian lily…despite the fact that it originates from none of the named countries.

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  • “apparently because the rules of botanical naming do not allow for a do-over”

    Indeed, the first name given has to be kept; no changes can be made after the fact, even for blatant errors like this one. These rules are kept in place because taxonomy is a surprising bloodthirsty field, and this is one way of keeping the fights in check.

  • They are surprisingly easy to grow if you can get the bulbs, which should not too be expensive. They could be grown in a pot if necessary. They just need sharp drainage.

    Taxonomists like a joke as well – the plants of the mitella and tellima family look like each other but are not related the taxonomists made their first names anagrams of each other.

    • Mitella and Tellima are actually the names of two genera (not families) which are are both in the family Saxifragaceae, so no joke was being made. However taxonomists have frequently joke while naming organisms – how about Damrongia, Muchmoria, Wigwamma, and even Scrophularia landroveri named after a much-loved expedition vehicle?

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