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The generic names Hyacinthus, Ornithogalum and Scilla have already been in use since ancient Greek times and represent the core genera of Hyacinthaceae. In his Genera Plantarum (1754) Linné based his circumscription of these three genera mainly on characters of the flowers. As a consequence of this decision, distributing the species that are nowadays believed to belong to the plant family Hyacinthaceae into these three genera would result in a highly unnatural classification. Only the splitting of these old genera into numerous and more homogeneous genera finally resulted in a more appropriate classification with the recognition of mainly monophyletic groups. Today the family Hyacinthaceae consists of approximately 70 genera and 1000 species.
The Hyacinthaceae prefer open, sunny habitats with dry and hot vegetation periods. In temperate regions they appear as spring geophytes in deciduous broadleaved forests. A few species like Rhadamanthus urgineoides from Madagascar grow epiphytic on trees in rainforests.