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What’s this scilla doing in a wood in New York?

Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, growing in Sullivan County, NY. Image ©GardenPhotos.comNosing around in the spring woods yesterday, near the east branch of the Callicoon Creek in Sullivan County, NY, I spotted a speck of sparkling blue, amongst fresh foliage and the flowers of Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria. Seemed odd. Took a closer look, and it was a scilla. There were a few leaves and three stems with one flower on each.

The map on the USDA Plants website reveals that the Siberian squill, Scilla siberica (left, click to enlarge), has been found in seventeen north east states but, according to the New York Flora Atlas, never before in Sullivan County. The little trail is part of the Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park, but few visitors pass this way. A quick check with the Pennsylvania Flora Project reveals that it’s been recorded in three places here in PA (For Brits: Pennsylvania is the size of England.).

It’s not native, it comes from Russia. So what’s it doing in a wood in New York? The nearest house – not, it’s clear, occupied by a keen gardener - is hundreds of yards away. In more than ten years I've only once heard of the creek flooding the area in which it was growing, so a flood is unlikely have dumped a bulb. So where it come from?

One flower was already developing its seed pod, which had weighed down the stem so that the pod was resting on the ground. That’s one way for the seed to spread a few inches. It’s growing about 10ft/3m from the narrow trail so seed arriving on footwear seems unlikely.

I often take a walk along this trail in spring, and have never spotted it before. Although the flowers may only last a few days, in hot weather - it can easily reach 70+F/21+C in April.

So I wonder how it got there…?


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growing orchids

Wow! Its looking so beautiful! But I too wonder how it got there may be because the scilla family offers some of the best blues to be found anywhere.

luise h.

Maybe it was carried there by a squirrel or a chipmunk. Those little guys transplant a lot more bulbs than people realize.


This is really strange to find this beautiful Russian flower here, I agree with Luise that the only possible source could be birds.

Graham Rice

Could be squirrels, Louise... But there's not not many houses in the area, and the nearest doesn't look like it has much of a garden... And it's a long way for a squirrel to carry a bulb...

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