Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
The spectacle of thousands of blue-flowered glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa sardensis) captures the attention at Wave Hill at this time of the year, but tucked away in odd corners are small pockets of some closely related plants with equally enchanting blooms.
Among them is Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica (a type of striped squill). It has white flowers that are marked with a distinct, blue stripe in the middle of each tepal (petal). Small groups of it can be seen in the border below the stone wall on the south edge of the Wild Garden. This next shot, looking west, should help guide you to them.
In the same border is Scilla mischtschenkoana (syn. Scilla tubergeniana), another striped squill with blue-striped pale flowers. The two are very similar but can be distinguished by their anther filaments—the little stalks that support the anthers at the middle of each flower. Puschkinia anther filaments are flattened and form a small “cup,” with the anthers almost entirely enclosed, as you can see in the first shot above.
Incidentally, Chionodoxa (glory-of-the-snow), shown here, also have flattened filaments in the shape of a cup, but the anthers are held just above the opening.
Scilla, on the other hand, have thread-like anther filaments that stand up like the points of a crown, as you can see in this next photo.
Puschkinia is named in honor of Count Apollos Mussin-Puschkin (1760-1805), a Russian chemist and plant collector, while the specific epithet of Scilla mischtschenkoana honors another Russian botanist, Pavel Mishchenko (1869-1938).
Lastly, in the next few days you might spot something that looks exactly like glory-of-the-snow but with completely white, not blue, flowers. There is indeed a white glory-of-the-snow—Chionodoxa luciliae f. alba—and we have patches of it under the hornbeam hedge near the Aquatic Garden and in other places around the grounds. The shot here was taken one spring along the trail in the Herbert and Hyonja Abrons Woodland.