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(Nigella damascena), an annual herbaceous plant of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). Native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, it is now grown in gardens throughout temperate regions of the world. It grows 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) tall and has lacelike leaves. The delicate flowers, blue or white and about 4 cm (1.5 inches) across, are set within a ring of feathery green bracts. Pinks and purples are seen in certain hybrids. Of almost equal horticultural interest to the flowers are the swollen fruits, topped by five curved beaks. The genus name, meaning "small and black," refers to the seeds, which in the related N. sativa are used medicinally and as a flavouring.