White Asphodel. Asphodele Rameux. Royal Staff. Branched
Asphodel. King's Spear.
Middle Europe. The shores of the Mediterranean.
The plant is about 3 feet high, with large, white, terminal flowers, and
radical, long, numerous leaves. It is only cultivated in botanical and
ornamental gardens, though it easily grows from seeds or division of roots.
The roots must be gathered at the end of the first year.
The ancients planted the flowers near tombs, regarding them as the form
of food preferred by the dead, and many poems refer to this custom. The
name is derived from a Greek word meaning sceptre.
The roots, dried and boiled in water, yield a mucilaginous matter that
in some countries is mixed with grain or potato to make Asphodel bread.
In Spain and other countries they are used as cattle fodder, especially
for sheep. In Barbary the wild boars eat them greedily.
In Persia, glue is made with the bulbs, which are first dried and then
pulverized. When mixed with cold water, the powder swells and forms a
Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Pliny said the roots were cooked in ashes
and eaten. The Greeks and Romans used them in several diseases, but they
are not employed in modern medicine.
An acrid principle separated or destroyed by boiling water, and a matter
resembling inuline have been found. An alcohol of excellent flavour has
been obtained from plants growing abundantly in Algeria.
Medicinal Action and Uses
Acrid, heating, and diuretic. Said to be useful inmenstrual obstructions
and as an antispasmodic. The bruised root has been recommended for rapidly
dissolving scrofulous swellings.
A. luteus, or Yellow Asphodel, Jacob'sStaff, is a native of Sicily.
A. fistulosus, or Onion-leaved Asphodel, of Southern France and Crete, is