asphodel ăs´fədĕl˝ [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.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants