Hyacinth, WildBotanical Name: Hyacinthus nonscriptus
Family: N.O. Rosaceae
Synonyms: Bluebell. Scilla nutans. Nodding Squill. Scilla nonscriptus. Agraphis nutans.
Part Used: Roots.
Habitat: Woods of Britain.
History: The Wild Hyacinth is in flower from early in April till the end of May, and being a perennial, and spreading rapidly, is found year after year in the same spot, forming a mass of rich colour in the woods where it grows. The long leaves remain above ground until late in the autumn. From the midst of very long, narrow leaves, rising from the small bulb and overtopping them, rises the flower-stem, bearing the pendulous 'bluebells' arranged in a long, curving line. Each flower has two small bracts at the base of the short flower-stalk of pedicel. The perianth (the term applied when the parts of the calyx and corolla are so similar in form and colour that no difference is perceptible) is bluish-purple and composed of six leaflets. The flowers have a slight, starch-like scent.
This is the 'fair-hair'd hyacinth' of Ben Jonson, a name alluding to the old myth, for tradition associates the flower with the Hyacinth of the Ancients, the flower of grief and mourning, so Linnaeus first called it Hyacinthus. Hyacinthus was a charming and handsome Spartan youth, loved by both Apollo and Zephyrus. Hyacinthus preferred the Sun-God to the God of the West, who sought to be revenged. One day, when Apollo was playing quoits with the youth, a quoit that he threw was blown by Zephyrus out of its proper course and it struck and killed Hyacinthus. Apollo, stricken with grief, raised from his blood a purple flower on which the letters 'ai, ai,' were traced, so that the cry of woe might for evermore have existence on the earth. As our English variety of Hyacinth had no trace of these mystic letters, our older botanists called it Hyacinthus nonscriptus, or 'not written on.' A later generic name, Agraphis, is of similar meaning, being a compound of two Greek words, meaning 'not to mark.'
The bulbs are poisonous in the fresh state. The viscid juice so abundantly contained in them and existing in every part of the plant has been used as a substitute for starch and in the days when stiff ruffs were worn was much in request, being thought second only to Wake-robin roots. It was also used for fixing feathers on arrows, instead of glue and as bookbinders' gum for the covers of books.
The roots, dried and powdered, are balsamic, having some styptic properties which have not been fully investigated.
It has been found to be one of the best remedies for leucorrhoea. The decoction of the juice of the root operates by urine.
Dosage: From 1 to 3 grains.