Definitions

Scilla

Scilla

[sil-uh; It. sheel-lah]
For the town, see Scilla, Italy. For the given name, see Priscilla. For the mythological monster, see Scylla.

Scilla (squill) is a genus of bulb-forming perennial herbs in the Hyacinthaceae. The 90-odd species are found in woodlands, subalpine meadows, and seashores across the Old World. Their flowers are usually blue, but white, pink, and purple types are known; most flower in early spring, but a few are autumn-flowering.

Several African species previously classified in Scilla have been removed to the genus Ledebouria. The best known of these is the common houseplant still sometimes known as Scilla violacea but now properly Ledebouria socialis.

Species include:

Scilla peruviana is of interest for its name; it is a native of southwest Europe, not of Peru. When Carolus Linnaeus described the species in 1753, he was given specimens imported from Spain aboard a ship named Peru, and was misled into thinking the specimens had come from that country. The rules of botanical naming do not allow a scientific name to be changed merely because it is potentially confusing.

Cultivation and uses

Many species, notably S. siberica, are grown in gardens for their attractive early spring flowers.

Squill liquid extract, a preparation of powdered squill bulbs extracted in ethanol, is an ingredient in cough medicines and cardiac surgery.

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