Asphodel (Asphodelus aestivus) known in Maltese as berwieq is a lily-like plant with very small roots. It is a common sight on cliff tops and in areas of garigue. In fact the plant prefers rocky areas with very little soil. The plants grow to a height of between 50 and 150cm and flower between January and April. The flowers are white with reddish-brown vertical stripes. This plant is native to Africa and most of the Mediterranean coasts. The name asphodel is derived from Greek. Although no longer employed in modern medicine, asphodel was used by the Greeks and the Romans as a diuretic, antispasmodic and as a treatment for sun burns. Asphodel tubers are highly resistant to fire.
In Greek legend, asphodel is closely associated with the dead and Persephone is often depicted wearing a garland of asphodel flowers. Asphodel was also planted on graves and the Asphodel Meadows was thought to be the place where the souls of those who had done an equal measure of good and evil in their lives rested.
It will soon be time for these tenacious perennials to bloom on rocky outcrops and on cliffs and areas with shallow pockets of soil. Asphodel is just one of the many pretty blooms that flower and thrive during our short winters. It is a plant perfectly adapted to our Mediterranean climate. As soon as the heat becomes intense, the plant and flowers wither and die, but under ground, the tuber will live on until the autumn rains cause it to sprout once more.