In July and August the bright yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) stand out against the muted colour of its heath or bog habitat. The flowers are star shaped and within them the stalks of the anthers are covered in dense yellow hairs.
How to spot Bog Asphodel
The leaves are narrow with parallel veins and appear grass like. The leaves grow at the base of the plant with a few on the flowering stem that reaches 10-40cm high. As well as producing seeds Bog Asphodel can spread through vegetative reproduction via its creeping rhizomes. This method of growth forms dense patches of the plant. Towards late August and into autumn the seed capsules, stems and leaves turn from green to orange.
Where does Bog Asphodel Grow?
Bog Asphodel grows in wet heaths and Sphagnum bogs in Western Europe. It is common in areas of wet heath in Dorset and can be see in Studland Heath and Holt Heath.
Is Bog Asphodel safe for livestock?
The species name of “ossifragum” meaning bone breaker, derives from the observation that sheep grazing where Bog Asphodel grows had brittle bones. Bog Asphodel does have some toxic properties to livestock; it can cause kidney and liver damage. But brittle bones are not caused by sheep consuming Bog Asphodel. It is the acidic conditions that the plant favours which provides grazing that is calcium poor which does not support strong bone formation.
Bog Asphodel is a highly visible plant restricted to acidic damp habitats. These habitats support a range of plants that do not grow elsewhere, and are vulnerable to peat harvesting and land management changes.