Asphodelus aestivus, or common asphodel, is a tall flowering perennial, often reaching 1.5 metres or more. It emits a sweet, unpleasant scent which often causes nausea. It can be found in large colonies in meadows and barren land.
For the ancient greeks the asphodel was a symbol of mourning, it was planted in cemeteries so that the starchy roots could be used as nourishment for the souls of the dead. The bulbs of the asphodel contain so much starch that, if they are boiled in a large quantity of water, they can be used for food in periods of famine. Shoemakers used to pound the roots into a mortar and make a very strong glue, ideal for leather. Even alcohol can be produced from the bulbs. The plant has heart-tonic, diuretic and healing properties. An ointment was made from the grated bulb, boiled in wine until it formed a cream, and used for the cure and healing of gangrene, mastitis and boils.