Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Scilla
Family:Liliaceae (Lily)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eurasia
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist soil; open woods, roadsides, gardens
Bloom season:March - May
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
USDA PLANTS database:Minnesota county distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower] Flowers are single, or in a raceme of 2 or 3 flowers at the top of a slender naked stem. Each flower is about 1 inch across when fully open, has 6 flaring blue petals with a darker blue stripe down the center and 6 white stamens with dark blue tips. The flowers are somewhat bell-shaped when not fully open. Other cultivars of this species may have white, pink or blue-violet flowers.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal and grass-like, to 5 inches long and ¼ to ½ inch wide. Leaves and stems are hairless. A plant may have several flowering stems.

Notes:

This is a classic case of gardening gone awry. Siberian Squill was brought to this country as an ornamental and is still sold in Minnesota and elsewhere, but it has also escaped into the wild and become invasive. It readily spreads itself and is difficult to get rid of, as broken roots often resprout. It is very hardy and cold tolerant, and is left untouched by critters from voles to deer. Sadly, the same traits that make it attractive as a garden plant (besides the vivid color) are also what make it invasive. Large colonies of squill can be seen in the eastern counties of the state, from Duluth to Rochester. There is even an infestation at the University of Minnesota St Paul campus, just a block away from the Bell Herbarium. It is currently unknown how far west its range has expanded (the county distribution map at USDA Plants is quite outdated). Found in the wild, this species has been mistaken for harebell and blue-eyed grass, both native species.

Please, all you gardeners out there: stop planting this. Spring blooming native species with blue flowers you might plant instead are Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis), bluebells (Mertensia virginica or M. paniculata), blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) or any number of native violets. Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) could provide bell-shaped blue flowers for the rest of the season.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Coon Rapids, MN, May 2008. Photo courtesy Dan Ondler taken in Oronoco, MN. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Lino Lakes, MN.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Petyer
on: 2010-04-15 23:20:40

For as long as I've been involved in the discussion, gardeners and other foreign plant dealers have insisted that very few of the plant species they introduce to "improve" our environment actually turn out to be invasive. The example often given is the spring flowering bulbs from the Netherlands. I disagree. If it is hardy here and can produce propagules, it will always - sooner or later - invade native habitat, just as Siberian Squill is proving now. I saw it first in the "wild", many years ago now, running up and down the Grindstone River just outside of Hinckley. Anita Cholewa at the Bell Herbarium told me it was being reported all over the state. It is as bad if not worse than garlic mustard - you can't even pull this crap.

Which gardeners are now willing to stand up and take responsibility, or is this just another "so sorry"? Gardeners, this is stupid... mindless... enough!

Posted by: Sandy - Steele county
on: 2011-04-16 09:01:34

Finally, after 40 years of living in the same house, I have identified the little blue flowers that blossom with the snow on the ground. Early Siberian Squill. They grow wild along the front of my house. I find them to be quite beautiful. I find nothing offensive about them. A whole lot prettier than dandilions, which I wish were gone, gone, gone. So all you gardeners out there, bite me. My Squill will be left in peace, while I continue to fight a war on the big 'D'.

Posted by: Debbie - Chanhassen
on: 2011-04-19 10:54:59

Thank you for helping me to identify this plant. It is growing like a carpet in places in the dog park in the Lake Minnewashta Park.

Posted by: Paul - Marshall, Lyon County
on: 2011-04-28 08:55:22

Found it growing in the stand of evergreens on the east side of the SMSU nature walk. There are both white and blue varieties with the white seeming to be more vigorous. It is not a very big area so far. I was excited to find this pretty little flower and now I learn it is another invasive plant.

Posted by: Brian - Stillwater
on: 2011-05-11 10:47:59

Mmm, invasive yes, but considering the fact that Scilla goes completely dormant in late spring, I'm not sure how much it is actually hurting other plants that are just beginning to sprout at that time.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-11 13:33:37

Considering that Scilla has crowded out the early natives, such as bloodroot, hepatica, and other woodland species, I can't say that it is NOT hurting other plants. Native insects depend on those early natives as a food source that Scilla cannot provide. It's a lost ecosystem.

Posted by: 1001ntt
on: 2012-03-24 16:52:59

Chayka, can you prove definitively that bloodroot, hepatica "and other woodland species" are losing out to squill, or is it something else? I'll bet there's no proof.

Posted by: 1001ntt
on: 2012-03-24 17:02:15

...are black walnut trees taking over woodlands where bloodroot, heptaicas, and "other woodland species" grew? And are there other trees besides black walnut that stunt the growth of nearly everything under them, or kill?

Posted by: Katie Baumbich - Winona County
on: 2012-03-24 22:22:18

My husband stopped in Dresbach today and took some pictures with our girls laying in this. Love it!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-03-25 06:35:07

@1001ntt, I think the onus is not on me defending natives, but on those who defend the introduction of alien plants to a local ecosystem which has evolved over millennia to co-exist with black walnut trees and other native species. What does something like Scilla give to the habitat in which it invades? Anything that is strictly "beneficial" to human life, including mere aesthetics, does not count. The ecosystem must support the natural wildlife that has inhabited the location for hundreds or thousands of years. So what does Scilla (or any other alien species) contribute that natives cannot?

Posted by: Renae - Roseville
on: 2012-03-25 08:44:04

I have a pretty thick crop of these growing behind my house. I'm assuming the previous owner of my house must have bought and planted them since they have completely taken over a bedded in area, but they are also venturing out into the lawn.

Posted by: Sandy - U o M St. Paul Campus
on: 2012-03-25 21:56:53

My husbad and I were riding bikes when I saw this striking blue under the trees. It almost looked like water. Had no idea they were invasive but they sure caught our eyes.

Posted by: Sue - Roseville
on: 2012-03-31 15:03:48

I've never seen these flowers in the lawn before this year. Some are white with blue stripes on each petal, some are violet with blue stamens. I don't know if they are different forms (or stages) of the Siberian Squill, but the photos look similar to what is posted. I thought at first they were bluebells. I found a dense stand of them about 30 feet away under the neighbor's crabapple tree; they may have been planted there previously.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-03-31 16:08:28

Sue, the white flowers with blue stripes is a different but related species: striped squill, Puschkinia scilloides. It also escapes cultivation but I don't think it's as aggressive as its blue cousin

Posted by: Mary - Minnetonka
on: 2012-04-02 16:59:48

I'm sad to read this is invasive. I noticed a few of these in my wooded back yard last year. This year there are about 10 times more. They are pretty. i was delighted to find them until I found this article.

Posted by: Shelly - Edina
on: 2012-04-09 21:01:08

This plant has been one of my favorites since I dug some out of my grandmother's garden in St Paul, where it was taking over. I will look for a replacement. I have a farm in Wright County where I am going to try to restore native plants and woods. I'm glad to have found this website.

Posted by: adarc
on: 2012-04-20 15:51:56

Chayka is right. Pretty though these may be, they are the Twinkies of the field. They have no "nutritional" value to our local fauna. They clearly spread quickly and form agressive colonies which will obviously crowd out what was there before (natives).

Posted by: Cindy - Dakota County
on: 2012-06-05 09:51:42

30 years ago I planted 25 of these bulbs in my back yard wooded area. They have now grown to an area about 5 feet square. In thirty years. They come up, bloom and die back in about 3 weeks time. After they are gone other plants grow in that area. I also planted a few dozen of them in several places in my front lawn where they have not spread and are very spindly. Again, they don't seem to affect the later plants. I believe your definition of INVASIVE (as given on your home page) is very broad; remember: all plants are biologically programmed to reproduce themselves and spread. Just because a plant spreads and is not native does not make it invasive.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-06-05 10:00:51

Cindy, we admit our definition of invasive is broad and make no apologies for it. I think you should also recognize that just because squill seems to have behaved itself in your own yard does not make it generally a non-pest plant. If it's spindly perhaps your soil conditions aren't right for it to flourish. Regardless, there are more accounts of it being a problem than not. Just take a look at the photo (above) of the infestation in Oronoco, MN to see what it can do. That is a problem, don't you think?

Posted by: Danielle - Carlton County
on: 2012-09-30 22:34:20

These flowers are not merely nonnative ornamentals. They do provide (gorgeous blue!) pollen to native bees as well as honeybees foraging in early spring. They are also recommended for planting in the book "Attracting Native Pollinators" by Eric Mader, et al.

Posted by: Inna - Russian Federation
on: 2013-04-22 16:57:16

Im not from Minnesota and perhaps i dont have a say in your discussion. But just an FYI: this pretty little flower that you call invasive is actually endangered in Russia and it is officially forbidden to pick it in the woods. It is the first sign of spring, a gorgeous one. We have lots of other plants and flowers that flourish in the same area without being affected. But blue Scilla is definitely people's favorite. Our forests are blue in spring and colorful in summer. But unfortunately people still do pick them. They smell great and every time I was taking pics of them there were bees flying around. And I'm sure those know what they are doing. The bottom line - invasive and useless - I doubt it. But everyone has a right for a different opinion.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-04-23 07:44:34

Dear Inna,
I understand that Scilla is prized in your part of the world, but that is where it evolved so it belongs there. It is a natural part of your ecosystem and has been for thousands of years.

The same is not true here. We have our own native plant species that evolved with our native insects that belong in our unique ecosystems, and those are the species that should be in our woodlands. Over here, the natural predators that keep Scilla populations under control do not exist, so it is free to spread wherever it finds suitable habitat. I know someone who saw Scilla take over an entire woodlands in a matter of 5 years. It replaces our own native species when it does that and degrades the ecosystem for insects that depend on our natives.

Danielle, I have learned that some bees do feed on Scilla, but that does not make it a viable replacement for the natives it displaces. Some generalist insects can make use of it or other exotics as a food source, but specialist insects suffer when the diverse native plant populations are reduced or wiped out. I contacted the Xerces Society about their recommended plant lists and expressed concerns about some that are generally available in the garden trade but known to escape cultivation and invade natural areas. While they do prefer people plant native species, they don't discourage exotics or have a policy on invasive species, which is counter-productive. That's really unfortunate because the organization otherwise does good work.

Anyone who doesn't understand the special relationships between insects and plants should read Doug Tallamy's book "Bringing Nature Home". It should be required reading for all gardeners, everywhere. An educated gardener is our best hope for preventing the further collapse of native insect populations (bees, butterflies and everything else, and on up the food chain), and the ecosystems they need to survive.

Posted by: Mary2 - Minnetonka
on: 2013-04-29 17:21:35

This was apparently planted by former owners of our home. It has been very invasive in our yard. I am trying to restore the woods in our backyard to a native environment, and it just sickens me to see the squill spreading throughout the woods, not to mention planted areas and our lawn. Every year more and larger swaths of the plant appear in the woods, this despite countless hours spent pulling the foliage and blooms before it goes to seed. From what I've read on the web, that's about all one can do.

Posted by: Jerold - Clinton Falls, Steele County, MN
on: 2014-04-24 22:25:45

We found individual plants in two separate locations. We did not know it was invasive, we will destroy it if we see it again.

Posted by: Shalimar
on: 2014-04-26 18:32:17

I must have planted 1. Now there are thousands. I am wondering if their bulbs will eventually push trilliums & every other plant out of the ground by the sheer volume of their bulbs. Boy do I regret planting this!

Posted by: Phil - Rochester
on: 2014-05-03 15:06:19

How does one go about eradicating Siberian squill?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-05-03 16:54:32

It is very difficult to eradicate. It does not respond to herbicides like broad-leaf weeds do so don't waste your money. I believe it propagates from seeds, bulbs (which can be tiny) and root fragments so if you dig you have to get absolutely everything or it will just come back.

Posted by: Elizabeth - Faribault, MN
on: 2014-05-17 08:41:59

There is a good-size patch of squill along the north side of the Sakatah Trail, approximately four miles west of 35W/hiway 60 junction.

Posted by: Jeanne - Ontario, Canada
on: 2014-05-24 12:05:46

While I am not in Minnesota, I take the liberty of joining this discussion as I think this is a serious problem. I inherited Scilla in a large garden and, not only have we been unsuccessful in controlling it, but it is spreading very rapidly and escaping into neighboring gardens. It seems to flourish in disturbed soil and the more we dig up the bulbs, the stronger it seems to grow. I bring in a team of helpers who pull off the leaves and seeds before they burst and open and we dig really deep to bring up those bulbs but to no avail. I am trying to establish a native woodland garden in about one third of my garden and grieve when I see the beautiful native plants being overwhelmed and stifled. I would be really grateful for some help. Perhaps one of the Universities or Botanical Societies?

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.