Never Assume

Every year I see this garden escapee along the Billy Goat C trail, and every year I think “yep – Muscari armeniacum“, because I know that plant from many years of gardening.

But, I’m always fact-checking (or second-guessing) myself, so I looked up M. armeniacum, just to be sure. Imagine my surprise when multiple authorities show it present in North America, but nowhere near the Mid-Atlantic.

Huh.

The same authorities show two other Muscari species, M. botryoides and M. neglectum, in the Maryland piedmont, so I checked Weakley’s Flora, and believe this to be M. neglectum. Unless it’s one of the cultivars. I think for the purposes of this blog, it’s good enough to say it’s a Muscari.

There are numerous Muscari species and cultivars in the nursery trade, all of which go by variants of the common name grape hyacinth. Previously placed in the Liliaceae, they’re now listed in the Asparagaceae. They’re easily grown bulb-forming perennials that bloom early and spread nicely in the garden, which is why they’re a problem: they naturalize a little too well.

Populations of the various Muscari are now established in much of the US, excluding the Great Plains and the mountainous and desert regions of the West. I haven’t found any official listing of it as invasive other than in Tennessee, but that may be a matter of time.

The long, grass-like leaves in these pictures belong to the grape hyacinth; it’s growing in a patch of golden ragwort, which has the heart-shaped leaves.

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