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.
The 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’.
Some 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…
An 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.
I saw these Aphyllanthes when out walking in the hills of the Languedoc, France, they’re absolutely stunning. A local told us we could eat the flowers so we tried one – with some trepidation because these are the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen and I didn’t want to spoil one, but I tired the petals of one, they are nice, slightly sweet, but such an enchanting plant.
Hi Anne, Thanks for your comment. Yes, the flowers are deliciously sweet. The stem is rather bitter in comparison. They are so beautiful.