Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic name: Bliochan
Bog aspodel is a member of the lily family.
This wildflower is small 5 - 7", it grows on acid soil, such as peat moor and in damp flushes, often forming colonies, bright flecks of yellow dotting a hillside.
The bright yellow star-like flowers have deep orange anthers.
Bog aspodel's blade-like leaves all come up from the base of the plant in a single plane.
Bog Aspodel Poisoning
Blackface sheep suffer from a disease called "yellowses", (plochteach in Gaelic) caused by poisoning.
The source of the poison are toxic substances called saponins which are found in bog aspodel and St John's wort.
One of the better known effects of this toxin is photosensitivity, however saponins are sometimes in other countries to to kill fish so saponin poisoning can be serious.
The translation for the Latin name of bog aspodel, Narthecium ossifragum is "bone breaker". Rather than eating the plant itself being the cause of weak bones, the land on which the bog aspodel grows is always acid and lacking calcium, so the grazing in that areas is also calcium deficient - a cause of weak bones.
Uses of Bog Aspodel
Bog aspodel has been used as a saffron substitute.
This wildflower has been used in making a yellow hair-dye.
Although toxic, in the past the roots have been boiled and mixed with grain or potato to make a bread, and in Spain it they have been used for cattle feed. The bulbs can be also made into a strong glue.
It is not used in modern medicine, but the Greeks and Romans used the plant for menstrual obstruction and as an antispasmodic.
Bog aspodel is a native plant of the Western Isles. As a species in the UK it is in decline as the lowlands are being drained.
Photography © Suzanne Harris. Notes by Ela Springwater
Croir - Isle of Great Bernera - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
21st June 2007