I drove over to Serra Gardens the other day and this plant immediately caught my eye. I have never really seen anything quite like it. Pretty and unusual.
Don Newcomer just got a bunch of these plants in, they are called urginea or drimia maritima, and it is also known as the sea squill.
Upon further research it turns out to be a very interesting plant indeed.
It is a flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae (formerly the family Hyacinthaceae.) Native to southern Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, thrives in the Mediterranean.
The plant is both poisonous and medicinal. Full of cardiac glycosides, it has been used over time in a variety of usages involving the heart.
This giant of all mediterranean geophytes has been used medicinally since the days of yore, it was mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egypt in the 16th century b.c.e., one of the oldest known medical texts. Pythagorus wrote about it in the sixth century b.c.e. Hippocrates used it for jaundice, convulsions, a diuretic and asthma, I believe it was most commonly used for edema.
It is also toxic to animals and makes a very handy rat poison, hope it works for gophers as well.
It is said to have a hermetic and spiritual use. The ancient greeks hung sprigs outside their doors to ward off evil spirits and unwelcome visitors.
A ward against midnight witchcraft, always a good thing to have. Associated with Mars and Scorpio and the element of fire. Is said to be associated with prosperity and protection.
Mentioned by Pliny the Elder in 79 c.e.
The plant was even used to whip the gods when they were slacking.
Rahner's book Greek myths and christian mysteries is full of references to the plant and its esoteric properties, which includes some erotic uses, one page of which I reprint here.
Whether I become acquainted with the plant's magic powers or not, it sports a tall and beautiful flower which I am anxiously looking forward to seeing in my garden.