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Bog Asphodel

This pretty plant with its diminutive, Iris-like leaves grows in bogs and wet moorland throughout Scotland. It will no doubt be found flowering among the Sundews and Sphagnum moss.  Ossifragum means ‘breaker of bones’. It was once believed that sheep’s bones became brittle after eating Bog Asphodel, but it turned out the calcium-poor soil on which it grows was the culprit. It is, however, toxic to animals. 

It has upright flowering stems that are glabrous and smooth. The leaves grow mainly from the base, as with Iris, and are straight-sided, slender, hairless, usually slightly curving inwards and with 5 parallel veins running up from base to tip. Edges are smooth and tips are pointed. A few spear-shaped smaller stem leaves rise alternately, hugging the stems. 

The flowers grow at the top of the stems in a clustered spike that is between 2 and 10cm long.  Each flower has its own short stalk with a bract equal in length to the stalk. The 6 petals are strictly speaking a 6-lobed perianth, with no sepals. Petal-lobes are narrow, spreading like a star-fish, and yellow, deepening to orange. There are 6 stamens with bright red anthers and a woolly mass of hairs at the base of each, and a short style. A bright yellow dye can be made out of the flowers, and they have also been used as a substitute for saffron.

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