Common Asphodel

Asphodelus ramosus L.


The common asphodel, which belongs to the Xanthorrhoeaceae family, is a tall perennial plant. It bears elongate tuberous roots and a basal rosette of very long, thin leaves. An erect stem develops during winter, reaching a height of 60-80 cm, and produces a branched inflorescence of showy white flowers, with six stamens and one pistil. The flowers appear between December and April, and are an important source of nectar for bees during the early foraging season, attracting many honey bees and large solitary bees. The plant goes dormant in summer. Old stems become dry and hollow but may stay erect, providing an important nesting site for carpenter bees and other stem-nesting insects. The common asphodel grows throughout the Mediterranean Basin, and is common throughout Palestine, except in the Jordan and Dead Sea Valley. The plants are toxic to livestock and contain microscopic needle-like crystals that cause a severe reaction if eaten; they therefore become dominant in highly grazed landscapes. However, the plant is the main feeding host of the bug Capsodes infuscatus, which forages on the sap and can inflict severe damage to asphodel populations, causing 100% loss of fruit production in many plant individuals. The tuberous roots have been used traditionally for food and medicine, and to make a glue.

Sites: Beitillu, Umm al-Tut