is a genus of mainly perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...
s native to western, central and southern Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...
, but now spread worldwide. Asphodels are popular garden plants, which grow in well-drained soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...
s with abundant natural light. Now placed in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae
Xanthorrhoeaceae is the botanical name of a family of flowering plants in the order Asparagales. Such a family has been recognized by most taxonomists, but the circumscription of the family has varied wildly....
, subfamily Asphodeloideae, like many lilioid monocot
Lilioid monocots or lilioids is an informal name used for a grade of five monocot orders in which the majority of species have flowers with relatively large, coloured tepals, broadly similar to those of lilies...
s, the genus was formerly placed in the lily family (Liliaceae).
The plants are hardy herbaceous perennials with narrow tufted radical leaves and an elongated stem bearing a handsome spike of white or yellow flowers. Asphodelus albus
and A. fistulosus
have white flowers and grow from 1½ to 2 ft. high; A. ramosus
is a larger plant, the large white flowers of which have a reddish-brown line in the middle of each segment.
The leaves are used to wrap burrata
Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. The name "burrata" means "buttered" in...
, an Italian cheese. The leaves and the cheese last about the same time, three or four days, and thus fresh leaves are a sign of a fresh cheese, while dried out leaves indicate that the cheese is past its prime.
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...
legend the asphodel is one of the most famous of the plants connected with the dead and the underworld
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...
describes it as covering the great meadow , the haunt of the dead. It was planted on graves
A grave is a location where a dead body is buried. Graves are usually located in special areas set aside for the purpose of burial, such as graveyards or cemeteries....
, and is often connected with Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....
, who appears crowned with a garland of asphodels. Its general connection with death is due no doubt to the greyish colour of its leaves and its yellowish flowers, which suggest the gloom of the underworld and the pallor of death. The roots were eaten by the poorer Greeks; hence such food was thought good enough for the shades. The asphodel was also supposed to be a remedy for poisonous snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...
-bites and a specific against sorcery
Sorcery may refer to:* Magic * Maleficium * Witchcraft* Sorcery , a video game for the PlayStation 3 utilizing the PlayStation Move* Sorcery , 1995* Sorcery , 1974...
; it was fatal to mice, but preserved pigs from disease. The Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...
s made their huts of asphodel stalks.
According to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
, , there are 17 species in the genus:
- Asphodelus acaulis Desf. - Branched asphodel
- Asphodelus aestivus Brot. - Summer asphodel, also known as Common asphodel and Silver rod
- Asphodelus albus Mill. - White asphodel, also known as Rimmed lichen
- Asphodelus ayardii Jahand. & Maire
- Asphodelus bakeri Breistr.
- Asphodelus bento-rainhae P.Silva
- Asphodelus cerasiferus J.Gay
- Asphodelus fistulosus L. - Onion-leaved asphodel, also known as Onionweed
- Asphodelus gracilis Braun-Blanq. & Maire
- Asphodelus lusitanicus Cout.
- Asphodelus luteus L. – synonym of Asphodeline lutea
- Asphodelus macrocarpus
Asphodelus macrocarpus is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the genus Asphodelus of the Liliaceae family. The Latin name macrocarpus of this species derives from the Greek μακρός and καρπειον , referred to the size of the fruits.-Description:Asphodelus macrocarpus grows to a height of...
- Asphodelus ramosus L. - Branched asphodel
- Asphodelus refractus Boiss.
- Asphodelus roseus Humbert & Maire
- Asphodelus serotinus Wolley-Dod
- Asphodelus tenuifolius
Asphodelus tenuifolius is a common weed of fields particularly of wheat fields in Punjab, Pakistan. It also grows in Egypt and in the Sinai peninsula....
- Asphodelus viscidulus Boiss.