This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Though a northern bog plant no trace of it occurs amongst the remains of Arctic plants found in North Britain and other parts. It is distributed generally in the North Temperate Zone north of the Alps, Pyrenees, N. Asia, N. America. In Great Britain it is not found in N. Wilts; in the Thames province only in Kent, Surrey, Berks, Bucks; and not in Suffolk, Northants, in Anglia; but elsewhere in E. Gloucs, S. Lincs, Notts, Mid Lancs, S.E. Yorks, Haddington, Stirling, as far north as the Shet-lands, and up to 3200 ft. in the Highlands. It is found also in Ireland very generally.
Bog Asphodel is a characteristic bog plant growing at high elevations in wild morasses on mountain-sides, as well as in more lowland stations. As Watson says: "The drainage and enclosure of bogs and marshes no doubt must gradually banish this plant from many of its localities". It is rare in the south-eastern counties, abundant in Scotland.
The flowering stem, at first prostrate, is then erect, surrounded at the base with many sword-like leaves, and so having the grass habit. The leaves are half as long as the stem, and have marked ribs.
The flowers are a rich golden-yellow or deep-orange, large and spreading, with woolly anther-stalks. The slender flowering stem has one bract at the base, and is tapering; the flowers have very short stalks, with 6 perianth segments, longer than the stamens, in which the anthers are deep-orange. The capsule is red, oblong, smooth, with 6 ridges and furrows, and longer than the perianth.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum, Huds.)
Hog Asphodel has a stem 6-10 in. long. It is in flower in July and August. It is a perennial, propagated by division.
There is no honey, but the flowers are conspicuous and scented. There are 6 stamens, 3 below the ovary, 3 on the perianth segments. The anther-stalks are woolly and awl-shaped. The anthers open inwards at the same time as the stigma, and are linear, deep-orange, on white anther-stalks. The style is short and the stigma blunt. The flower is adapted for cross-pollination by pollen-collecting bees and flies.
The seeds are pale-yellow, very small, and the testa is 8 mm. long. The seeds are provided with hairy outgrowths, which aid in their dispersal by the wind.
Narthecium is from the Greek narthex, the name of a tall umbelliferous plant, and ossifragum, from os, bone, frango, I break, refers to reputed properties. The plant is called Bog Bastard or Lancashire Asphodel, Yellow Grass, Knavery, Maiden Hair, Move Grass, Rosa Solis.
As to the last, Ellis says: "This moor-grass, in the parish of Wing (Bucks) they call Rosa Solis, as it is distinguished by shepherds from other grasses, who know it by its three-square leaf rapier-like; for the blade, like that, is thickish and shaped somewhat in the flag kind, bearing a yellowish flower, like that of a daffodown-dilly, and seldom runs above a handful high in a spongy soft substance". The names Lancashire Asphodel and Maiden Hair are to be explained thus: "In Lancashire it is used by women to die their haire of a yellowish colour", Gerarde says. Parkinson says his friend Anthony Salter of Exeter told him they called it Knavery there.
Essential Specific Characters: 304. Narthecium ossifragum, Huds. - Flowering stem a scape with few leaves, erect, decumbent, leaves ensiform, ribbed, rigid, flowers yellow, racemose, capsule red, triangular.