Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist soil; open woods, roadsides, gardens|
|Bloom season:||March - May|
|Plant height:||3 to 6 inches|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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 It is currently unknown how far west its range has expanded (the county distribution map at USDA Plants is quite outdated).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.
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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.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?