Tractema lilio-hyacinthus or Scilla lilio-hyacinthus

Pyrenean Squill or Lily-Hyacinth

At first glance of these leaves carpeting the woodland floor beside a stream I thought it wild garlic. As I walked closer to it, with no garlicky odour in the air, I realised it was not wild garlic! This plant prefers wet places such as stream banks and woods, like wild garlic.

In French this particular species is commonly called Jacinthe des Pyrénées. In English, lily-hyacinth or Pyrenean squill. This species is a member of the Asparagaceae botanical family.

Mrs Grieve mentions squill in a Modern Herbal. In particular she discusses Urginea scilla. Though in the same botanical family this plant prefers dry soils. It has many common names including maritime squill. The maritime squill looks quite different from the Pyrenean squill in my photographs.

However, interestingly she notes the origin of the word ‘scilla’ to be Greek. Apparently the word translates as ‘excite’ or ‘disturb’.

Discussing the particular plant species from my photographs, S. lilio-hyacinthus, Mrs Grieve notes the bulbs were utilised as a purgative by inhabitants of the Pyrenees.

Seems a rather appropriate digestively ‘disturbing’ name for this pretty plant and certainly not to be confused with wild garlic!

Pyrenean Squill and a Dog!
S. lilio-hyacinthus in the Pyrenees

Aphyllanthes of Montpellier

Aphyllanthes monspeliensis

close up Aphyllanthes monspeliensisFamily:

Aphyllanthaceae or Liliaceae (now Asparagaceae)

French Common Name: Aphyllanthe de Montpellier

This pretty little flower grows prolifically here in the Aude.  It seems to prefer stony, dry soil.

The Royal Horticultural Society list the common name as ‘lily pink’. I am not sure where the ‘pink’ is from! The lovely older picture (below left) I sourced online from the Digital Collection of the New York Public Library. The artist was Pierre Joseph Redouté. He lived between 1759-1840. The NY Public Library list the common name as ‘blue grass lily’ which, I think, seems more appropriate.

Aphyllanthes Aude Southern FranceThe French common name tells a little about its indigenous roots as it was initially described by Pena and Lobel when they were studying in Montpellier. It was first documented in one of their publications around 1570. Since then it has moved around botanical families. Initially, it was thought to resemble Caryophyllus sylvestnis. It is now listed by both the Royal Horticultural Society and Kew Royal Botanical Gardens as belonging to the Asparagaceae botanical family.

The Latin name “Aphyllanthes” means ‘virtually leafless plant’.

traditional medicinal plants southern EuropeSome sources suggest it is native to the Mediterranean region (France, Spain, Algeria). However, apparently it can also be found in Portugal. The Royal Horticultural Society consider the plant range to be south west Europe and Morocco.

.. and a little bit of research…

Parada et al studied the ethnobotanical uses of several plants in the Catalonia region. Their results were published in 2011. Aphyllanthes monspeliensis was included in their list of plants researched. Apparently the flowers were eaten raw. Whether this was as a food source or for medicinal reasons seems unknown.

…with a possible traditional medicinal use…

Aphyllanthes monspeliensisAn earlier ethnobotanical study, also based in southern Spain, focused on medicinal uses. This study lists the shoots of Aphyllanthes as being anti-anaemic suggesting a traditional medicinal use (Rivera et al).

The flowers are quite beautiful and even more so with butterflies. A joy to see.