Muscariis a genus in the Hyacinthaceaefamily. This genus can be divided into fairly distinct groups. These groups are considered by some authorities to be subgenera and by others to be genera in their own right. At least one of them, Leopoldia, is accepted as a genus by Kew and also Mobot. A good discussion of this genus can be found in The Smaller Bulbsby Brian Mathew.

The Botryanthus group , sometimes called the true Grape Hyacinths, all have pale blue to blackish-blue flowers (apart from the occasional albino) that are usually globose to obovoid in shape with a very constricted mouth. They are carried in racemes which are compact and dense with the flowers almost touching, although they may become spaced out later on. These are mostly easy to cultivate and flower in early spring.

The Pseudomuscari group, sometimes considered a genus, have flowers in shades of blue, often pale or rather bright blue, and are mostly smallish plants with fairly densely flowered racemes. The characteristic feature is that the bell-shaped perianth is not constricted at the mouth. They are also early spring-flowering and easily cultivated.

The Leopoldiagroup is now recognized by many as deserving genus status.These are on the whole much taller plants than the above two groups with the flowers more widely spread on the raceme. The fertile flowers are longer, usually urn-shaped or tubular with angular 'shoulders' just below the constricted mouth. The colour is usually some shade of whitish, yellowish, greenish or brown, never blue, although there is often a conspicuous tuft of bright violet, blue or pinkish sterile flowers at the top of the raceme. This group or genus blooms later in the season, in late spring or early summer. They are relatively easy to cultivate in warm sunny situations.

The Muscarimia group has two species with large bulbs with thick fleshy perennial roots which delve down into the rocky ground of their natural habitat in Turkey and the east Aegean region. The stout stems carry racemes with large elongated flowers with six projections below the mouth. Flowers are fragrant and yellow or white, faintly tinted green or blue, with brown lobes which are so small that they are more like small teeth. Sterile flowers are few, minute and violet, or none. Since they come from hot sun baked hillsides they are best grown in a bulb frame or alpine house in a deep pot to accommodate their strong roots.

Species can be found in their natural habitats around the Mediterranean Sea from Spain all the way round to Morocco. Many species originate from Turkey but some can be found in the Caucasus. They grow in vineyards in Austria and France. They are even found in the USA as garden escapees. Some grow on dry mountain slopes, some in (mountain) meadows. There is a muscari for every situation. They prefer a neutral to alkaline soil although a slightly acid soil will usually be tolerated. Good drainage is essential. All species like a sunny to semi-shady spot. Planting depth should be twice the height of the bulb. For naturalizing I would recommend a bit deeper, especially in colder areas. Winter hardiness is not a problem; they will survive most cold winters.

Rock gardeners will get great value out of many Muscari species. Choose the ones that don’t multiply too rapidly; otherwise the bulbs can get too invasive. Cultivars of Muscari armeniacum and Muscari neglectum are such rampant growers. For a touch of delicacy try Muscari pallens instead, or choose the bulbs of Muscari macrocarpum, for its bright yellow flowers and lovely sweet fragrance. Martin Phillipo has provided much of the information on this page in his Introductionto the topic of the week when Muscari was discussed in May 2003. His introduction also includes a lot of cultivation information. Visit his web sitefor complete information on this genus.

Plant the seeds when ripe in a well-drained medium. Water it and then let it sit dry all summer. You should get good germination in the winter (Harold Koopowitz). Some growers prefer to sow them in the fall and water continuously until winter rainfall takes over.

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