Botanical name: Dianthus barbatus Family: Caryophyllaceae (Carnation family)
Sweet William is a species of Dianthus native to the mountains of southern Europe, with a variety in northeastern China, Korea, and southeasternmost Russia. It is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb, growing to 30-75 cm tall, with green to glaucous blue-green tapered leaves 4-10 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. The flowers are produced in a dense cluster of up to 30 at the top of the stems and have a spicy, clovelike scent. Each flower is 2–3 cm diameter with five petals with serrated edges. In wild plants the petals are red with a white base. There are varieties with red, pink and white flowers. The plant is widely used in borders, rock gardens. Sweet William flowers attracts birds, bees and butterflies. Many legends purport to explain how Sweet William acquired its name, but none is verified. It is variously said to be named after Saint William of York, William the Conqueror, or Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Another etymological derivation is that william is a corruption of the French oillet, meaning "little eye". Sweet William is a favourite name for lovelorn young men in English folkloric ballads.
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