hyacinth, any plant of the genus Hyacinthus, bulbous herbs of the family Liliaceae (lily family) native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa. The common, or Dutch, hyacinth of house and garden culture (derived from H. orientalis of the NE Mediterranean) became so popular in the 18th cent. that 2,000 kinds were said to be in cultivation in Holland, the chief commercial producer. This hyacinth has a single dense spike of fragrant flowers in shades of red, blue, white, or yellow. A variety of the common hyacinth is the less hardy and smaller blue- or white-flowered Roman hyacinth (var. albulus) of florists. The flower of the Greek youth Hyacinth has been identified with a number of plants (e.g., iris) other than the true hyacinth. The related grape hyacinths (Muscari), sometimes called baby's-breath, are very low, mostly blue-flowered herbs similar in appearance to hyacinths and also commonly cultivated. Types of brodiea, camass, squill, and other lily-family plants with flower clusters borne along the stalk are also called hyacinth. Hyacinths are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
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