Friday, March 30, 2012

Siberian Squill

What: Siberian squill (aka Scilla siberica) is always the first flower to pop up in early spring (last year April 2 they first appeared). This little patch in my backyard actually came up about a two weeks ago (March 17)! The little blue flowers (in the same family as asparagus) are up before most insects, so pollination is done largely by overwintering adults of members of the bee family (and on warm days).

Ecological notes: While this plant has escaped from cultivation, it's still a nice addition to my backyard - telling me when the ground has thawed (I see it around the same time I begin to hear the earthworms crunching the leaves at night). It's also a spring ephemeral, meaning that it's whole life cycle takes place before the trees leaf out. Otherwise it's dormant and spends the rest of spring, summer, and winter as a seed or bulb.

Where: I have sandy soils that seem to accommodate this little guy quite well. They're perennial (like lilies, they have bulbs - not sure if they're edible). Because they rely on insects for pollination I would suspect they rely less on seeds than on vegetative reproduction - a cold spring would mean an absence of flying insects.

Other notes: The leaves seem waxy, but are incredibly week and will yellow pretty quickly if I walk over them. It's name probably derives from the Greek word for the plant (since the word was used in latin to convey shrimp like). The genus is Eurasian, so this plant's name is derived from other similar plants that might more closely resemble shrimp. Maybe the dangling flower was reminescent of some squid-like critter?

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