Asphodelus

Asphodelus is a genus of about 20 species in the Asphodelaceae family. They are native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, but primarily the Mediterranean. Many have a small rhizomatous crown and thick, fleshy roots.


Asphodelus acaulis forms basal rosettes of narrow, succulent leaves and produces peach-pink flowers in early spring on short stems. It is the only low-growing member of the genus and is native to the mountains of Algeria and Morocco. The pictured plants in the first photo by Jane McGary are growing in a bulb frame in Oregon, kept dry in summer. Propagation is by seed or division of the dormant crowns; the older crowns may die after flowering. Photos 2-5 were taken by John Lonsdale.

Asphodelus acaulis, Jane McGaryAsphodelus acaulis, John LonsdaleAsphodelus acaulis, John LonsdaleAsphodelus acaulis, John LonsdaleAsphodelus acaulis, John Lonsdale

Asphodelus aestivus (syn. A. ramosus, A. microcarpus) is a well-known element of Mediterranean flora, associated with overly-grazed pastures and shallow soils, being fire- and grazing-resistant. Plants are rather showy in bloom and occasionally harvested as cut flowers by day trippers. Because of this it is called the 'common asphodel'. Taxonomy of this species is rather convoluted as evident by the synonyms which are still being used today. First photo shows habitat by Angelo Porcelli. Second to fourth photo by Nhu Nguyen taken at the UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley where they bloom well every April.

Asphodelus aestivus, Angelo PorcelliAsphodelus aestivus, Nhu NguyenAsphodelus aestivus, Nhu NguyenAsphodelus aestivus, Nhu Nguyen

Asphodelus albus, also native to the Mediterranean, has starry white flowers with brown stripes down the middle of the tepals. PBS list member Jane McGary cautions that it can look messy when it goes dormant in late summer and recommends deadheading it so it will look better and to prevent enthusiastic self-seeding. She states mature plants are very easy to divide when dormant, and seedlings flower in their second or third year. Predators do not seem to touch it. The first photo from Max Withers of it in flower in the San Francisco bay area, where it thrives. The second photo from Hans Joschko. The last three photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner showing a bud, flowers, and fruit.

Asphodelus albus, Max WithersAsphodelus albus, Hans JoschkoAsphodelus albus bud, Mary Sue IttnerAsphodelus albus, Mary Sue IttnerAsphodelus albus fruit, Mary Sue Ittner

Asphodelus fistulosus has smaller flowers with wider petals, similarly striped. Also native to the Mediterranean, and weedy in other Mediterranean climates including California, though the tag on these plants, in the Orto Botanico in Rome, indicated that it is redlisted in Lazio. Photo by Max Withers

Asphodelus fistulosus, Max Withers

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Page last modified on April 11, 2015, at 07:47 AM