asphodel (ăsˈfədĕlˌ) [key], name for plants of several genera of the family Lilaceae (lily family). The true asphodels belong to two small and very similar genera ( Asphodelus and Asphodeline ) of the Mediterranean region and India. The showy flower spike of the former is usually white; of the latter, yellow. Both are stemless, hardy herbs. The asphodel (or king's spear) of the ancients, sacred to Persephone and associated with the fields of the dead, was Asphodeline lutea; the asphodel of the early French and English poets was a narcissus. The false asphodel is Tofieldia, represented in North America by T. glutinosa and a few other species. The turkeybeard ( Xerophyllum asphodeloides ) of the Atlantic coastal plains is also called mountain asphodel. Asphodels are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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