Asphodel (asphodelus), a genus of ornamental perennial plants belonging to the natural order liliacece, and to the sub-order asphodelece. They are all natives of the old world, and are found abundantly in Greece, Sicily, Asia, and Barbary. The genus comprises 12 species, all of which have a bulbous root, erect undivided stem, long leaves, and showy flowers arranged in clusters, which in most of the species are spikes. The luteus, or common yellow species, is an old inhabitant of European gardens, into which it was introduced from the shores of the Mediterranean. It is branchless, about 2 1/2 feet high, has scattered and almost pili-form leaves sheathing the stalk, and flowers of a beautiful golden yellow. It blossoms during six weeks in midsummer. The ramo-sus, or white and branched asphodel, has a naked stem with ramifications near the summit, each of which is terminated by a spike of white star-shaped flowers having their petals streaked with purple. The ancients had a superstition that the manes of the dead were nourished upon its roots, and they therefore planted it in the neighborhood of sepulchres, and made it sacred to Proserpine. It still covers the hills and valleys of Apulia, where it furnishes nourishment to the sheep.
The albus, or upright asphodel, differs from the preceding by having a branchless stem, and also by having its flowers a little smaller and nearer together. The other species of asphodel are much less frequently cultivated in gardens.