BOG ASPHODEL

Narthecium ossifragum

Bog Asphodel Family [Nartheciaceae]  
(Formerly: Lily Family [Liliaceae])

month8jul month8july month8Aug

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8yellow
inner
inner8orange
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ6
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round
toxicity
toxicityZmedium
 

10th July 2009, Near River Rothay, Rosthwaite, Borrowdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A Rivendell of Bog Asphodel.



16th July, Muncaster Fell, Eskdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Grows in short wet grassland on acid soils.


16th July, Muncaster Fell, Eskdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Has bright yellow flowers.


16th July, Muncaster Fell, Eskdale, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flower buds at the top, opened flowers in the centre, and spent flowers turning to fruits at the bottom. Half-way down the photo is the orange tip of one of its grass-like leaves.


21st June 2016, nr School Knoll, Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flower buds at the top.


13th July 2012, beside path, Watendlath, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The six-petalled flowers have six long stamens sheathed by short yellow hairs with a prominent orange anther atop. The petals are very narrow and widely separated.


6th July 2007, Atkinson Coppice, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Stamens surrounded by yellow hairs like a bottle-brush. The yellow wine-bottle shaped structure in the centre is the developing fruit.


21st June 2016, nr School Knoll, Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The six hairless sepals splay out when the flower is fully opened.


13th July 2012, beside path, Watendlath, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Flowers such as White Mullein also have hairy stamens like these. Anthers angled bearing chrome-orange coloured pollen.


6th July 2007, Atkinson Coppice, Little Langdale, Cumbria Photo: © RWD
Anthers losing their orange pollen, central part extending to become the fruit. Un-opened flower buds top right.


28th Sept 2008, Troutal Tongue, Duddon Valley, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Fruiting clump showing grass-like leaves which also are orange tipped.


Aug 2014, Aonach Moor, Scotland. Photo: © Steve Walters
Just the tips of the leaves visible here on this fruiting display of plants. The leaves also have a tendency to go orange-brown like the stalks and fruit.


28th Sept 2008, Troutal Tongue, Duddon Valley, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Fruiting Stem, a darker orange, a characteristic feature of upland bogs in autumn. The fruit surrounded by narrow upright sepals elongates into a long and becoming beaked case containing three longitudinal internal seed-containing compartments.


20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Last summers old growth looks more like a grass after fruiting. Six short, narrow, dried sepals surround three longer dried and splayed-out husks that was once the fruit but has now split open.


20th April 2012, Duddon Mosses, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The three splayed-out dried husks of the fruit contain three (now empty) seed compartments. The seed compartments are elongated with heart-shaped cross-sections. The seeds themselves (off-white and striated but not shown) are ovaloid with a single filament protruding from each end, presumably just one seed per seed compartment(?), making three altogether.


Uniquely identifiable characteristics : Deep yellow flowers in the form of a spike and found in the middle and grassy margins of peat bogs and wettish moors.

Just before the fruiting stage, the closed flower can take on a resemblance to Yellow-wort but Yellow-wort grows on sand dunes, and Bod Asphodel in wet grassland bogs. Also, Yellow-wort is yellow, whereas Bog Asphodel in this stage appears deep orange.

Bog Asphodel is not an asphodel, although it was once thought to be a miniature version of one, but rather a member of the Lily Family, Alliaceae.

In Northern climes the it was once used a yellow hair dye and as a cheap substitute for saffron.

In July and August wet acid bogland can sometimes be strewn with carpets of a deep orange yellow to be replaced later in September by a carpet of orange and russet-brown as the flowers fruit.

PHYLLOERYTHRIN & 'SAUT'

Bog Asphodel is poisonous to both sheep and cattle, causing serious kidney problems and a photosensitive disorder (variously called 'alveld' in Norway; 'saut' in Cumbria; and 'plochteach' 'yellowses' and 'head greet' in Scotland) caused by tri-saccharide saponins (narthecin being the major one containing the glycosides glucose and arabinose attached to galactose, xylosin a minor one, not shown and containing instead the glycosides glucose and xylose attached to galactose) that crystallize in the bile ducts blocking them, resulting in the accumulation of phylloerythrin (a porphyrin) that the bile ducts were attempting to discard. The photosensitization is caused by the phylloerythrin which now permeates the blood plasma. Where the blood approaches the surface (in the skin) the phylloerythrin is exposed to sunlight and there it is photo-energized into an excited state initiating various chemical reactions in the skin, leading to tissue damage. It is often fatal. [Your Author has been unsuccessful at finding the structural formulae for either Narthecin or Xylosin].

Bog Asphodel also contains steroidal saponins such as Sarsapogenin Trisaccharide which become the poisonous Sarsapogenin, Sarsapogenone plus epi-Sarsapogenin when hydrolyzed and subsequently processed in the sheeps rumen, but experiments have failed to reproduce lesions in the liver with these saponins.

These same saponins (still not shown) have haemolytic and cytotoxic properties causing hepatitis, oedema and severe poisoning (usually in sheep). The two saponins are spirostanol saponins, derived by hydrolysis from furostanols which is the form in which the saponins exist in the plant.

The phylloerythrin itself was synthesized in the animal after eating green plants containing chlorophyll (another porphyrin). The chlorophyll is normally broken down in the animals gastro-intestinal tract by microbes into phylloerythrin, where it is excreted by the liver into the bile. But if the bile ducts are blocked...



BUTENOLIDES & NARTHESIDES

Bog Asphodel also contains poisonous furanones which are lactones and one of their glycosides.

Nartheside A and Nartheside B, which are rather inert glucosides, but on enzymatic hydrolysis both are converted into the very same reactive aglycone, a narthogenin, which is a lactone and has similar chemical properties to the lactones Protoanemonin and Tulipalin A. This lactone is namely 4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-2-butenolide, it doesn't appear to have a common name.

Nartheside A is (4S)-3-methoxy- 4-(D-glucopyranosyloxy)- 2-buten-4-olide, whilst that of Nartheside B is the opposite stereoisomer (4R)-3-methoxy- 4-(D-glucopyranosyloxy)- 2-buten-4-olide.


  Narthecium ossifragum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Nartheciaceae  

Distribution
family8bog asphodel family8Nartheciacaea

 BSBI maps
genus8narthecium
Narthecium
(Bog Asphodel)

BOG ASPHODEL

Narthecium ossifragum

Bog Asphodel Family [Nartheciaceae]  
(Formerly: Lily Family [Liliaceae])

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