by Brian Johnston (Canada)
In an earlier Micscape article, I
studied two varieties of this plant with white and blue
colourations. When the opportunity arose to photograph a
reddish-pink example, I simply couldn’t resist! I’m
the thought of having this spectacularly coloured, and intensely
scented plant to brighten my environment during the intensely
snowy late February period, played a large part in my
(It is fortunate that hyacinths can be ‘fooled’ into believing
is spring in February. In my area, ‘real’ spring may not
until late April or early May!)
The genus Hyacinthus used to be a
the lily family Liliaceae,
however it is now considered the ‘type’ genus of its own family,
studied here is often referred to as the ‘Dutch’ or ‘Common’
hyacinth. It is characterised by each bulb producing a
densely packed spike of flowers. Wild hyacinth is native
Turkey and the Middle East, and it is said that both the Greeks
Romans grew the plant. During the 16th century,
reappeared in the historical record when the German doctor
Rauwolf brought plants collected in Turkey and Iran to Western
Just how tightly packed the
are on a spike can be seen in the first image in the article.
images that follow show the bell-shape of the flowers, and the
relatively short stalk that connects each flower to the sturdy,
tapered, cylindrical stem. The images also show each
attractive, bright green, narrow leaves. Each leaf has a
outer cross-section, and a concave inner cross-section.
also that the buds of immature spikes reveal very little of the
flowers’ bright colouration.
Very early buds, like those
the image that follows, are often pale greenish-yellow in
As time passes, the buds
a lime green colour, with almost imperceptible hints of pink.
Several days later, the buds
to show definite signs of their final colour.
At this stage the buds are
peanut-shaped, and have strange, white, bow-tie shaped
their bases. Bud stalks are extremely short.
Closer views of the bud tips
the sculptural quality of the tightly packed sepals and petals.
note the close packing of the buds making up the spike.
The next stage in the blooming
process has individual buds moving away from one another,
the base of the spike, and moving upward. Bud colour
continues to increase, again from bottom to top.
If you carefully examine the
that follow, you can see that the outer sepals that surround and
protect the three inner petals have begun to separate at the
In the final stage, the three
sepals and three inner petals open out to their final positions
which they are almost perpendicular to the flower’s base.
the front, each flower resembles a tiny starfish.
In the 18th
common hyacinth was so popular that in Holland, the main
producer, approximately 2000 variations were said to be
available. It is not difficult to see why this plant was,
so popular. Both its colouration and scent are
Note in the four images that
that each flower does have a stalk, although it is a very short
one. Also notice that at the base of each stalk there is a
small, colourless, triangular leaflet. The first two
the grooved nature of the plant’s main stem.
Because a flower’s sepals and
petals are indistinguishable from one another, they should more
properly be referred to as tepals. Notice that most have
complex, three-dimensional surface patterns.
Closer views of these patterns
The plant’s main stem is much
lighter in colour than its leaves. Although within the
flower-head the stem is deeply grooved, beneath it the grooves
shallow and only noticeable by close inspection.
Much closer views of the lower
reveal these shallow grooves, and the stem's surface texture.
Near the base of the plant,
overlapping sword-shaped leaves are a much lighter green
The image on the right shows detail at the point where the
the top of the bulb.
Up close, the many parallel,
longitudinal ridges that run the length of each leaf are clearly
visible. Note the speckled appearance of the leaf’s outer
which becomes apparent at this viewing distance.
The time has come to take a
look at hyacinth flowers. Each has three outer pink
three inner pink petals which spread out from the tubular base
flower. Both sepals and petals are deeply coloured for
their length, but become almost white near the top of the
tube. Looking into the centre of a flower, one can just
the yellow tips of its pollen producing anthers.
In order to get a better view
the flower’s reproductive structures I gently pulled the sepals
petals away from the corolla tube. The images that follow
the group of anthers, each having a dark, almost black colour,
coating of yellow pollen grains. The reason that the
structures cannot be seen is that they are positioned at the
the corolla tube, beneath the anthers and their supporting
If one side of a flower is
the relative positions of stamens and pistils become
white stigma is joined to a yellowish-green spherical ovary by a
stubby, deep pink style. The stigmas are at the level of
bottoms of the flower’s anthers.
Much closer views reveal the
grains on the surfaces of anthers, and the microscopic hair-like
projections on the surface of each stigma.
If all but one of the pistils
removed, the grooved surface of the ovary is apparent.
Viewed under the microscope,
‘seeds to be’ are visible within the ovary. A higher
magnification view of the ovary’s outer surface shows the
shape of hyacinth pollen grains. The ends of the
sharply pointed in the grains.
Additional photomicrographs of
various regions of a hyacinth petal show more pollen grains.
Two high magnification
macro-photographs show the active surface of an anther.
images also show the upper section of the ovary with the pink,
style growing from its top.
If an anther is examined with
aid of a microscope, its liberal coating of pollen grains
The groove which bisects each
pollen grain longitudinally is apparent in the scattering of
a microscope slide.
Photomicrographs showing the
cellular structure of the dark edges of an anther can be seen
below. Although these areas appear almost black in the
macro-photographs, the brilliant light of dark-ground
reveals that they have a brownish-red colouration.
Eventually, a flower’s sepals
petals disintegrate, and fall from the flower. What
the example shown below is the ovary, and the remnants of the
The name hyacinth is believed
come from an ancient Greek legend. Two gods loved a young
named Hyakinthos. One god – (the god of the west wind) –
the other – (the sun god) – teaching Hyakinthos how to throw the
discus. He was overcome with jealousy and blew the discus
back. Unfortunately it hit Hyakinthos on the head and
him. From his blood, the flower we now know as the
grew. (The Greeks certainly had a vivid imagination!)
The low magnification, (to
macro-photographs were taken using a 13 megapixel Canon 5D full
DSLR, using a Canon EF 180 mm 1:3.5 L Macro lens.
A 10 megapixel Canon 40D DSLR,
equipped with a specialized high magnification (1x to 5x) Canon
lens, the MP-E 65 mm 1:2.8, was used to take the remainder of
The photomicrographs were
using a Leitz SM-Pol microscope (using a dark ground condenser),
the Coolpix 4500.
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of
of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World
A complete graphical index of
of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the
October 2013 edition of Micscape.
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