It has been a long, long time since I did one of these, but a long time ago, I started a series about plants, trees and herbs which are mentioned in Hellenic mythology. You can find previous instalments here. Today, I want to talk about a beautiful plant with ties to the dead. Today, I'll tell you a bit about the (Branched) Aspodel. From Wikipedia:

"Asphodelus is a genus of mainly perennial plants in the Xanthorrhoeaceae, first described for modern science in 1753. The genus is native to temperate Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent, and now naturalized in other places (New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, southwestern United States, etc.). Asphodels are popular garden plants, which grow in well-drained soils with abundant natural light. Now placed in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, the genus was formerly included in the lily family (Liliaceae).

Asphodelus ramosus, also known as branched asphodel, is a perennial herb in the Asparagales order. Similar in appearance to Asphodelus albus and particularly Asphodelus cerasiferus, it may be distinguished by its highly branched stem and smaller fruits. Asphodelus ramosus is native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It can also be found in the Canary Islands. It is particularly common on the Catalan coast, where it shows an affinity for acidic soils, mainly schist. It is to be found close to the sea on the slopes of the Albères massif, where it forms abundant colonies in April to May. Its very numerous flowers are white with six tepals bearing a central brown streak. The fruits are small round capsules."

Asphódelos (ἀσφόδελος) is a well-known plant in ancient Hellenic mythology, where the branched version is said to be the plant mentioned by Hómēros as the flower that graced the fields of the Underwold--the Aspodel Meadows. In the Odysseia, the plant is mentioned repeatedly:

"When I had spoken, the spirit of Achilles, Aeacus’ grandson, went away with great strides through the field of asphodel, rejoicing at my news of his son’s greatness." [Bk XI:465-540]
"I next saw great Orion, carrying his indestructible bronze club, driving the phantoms of wild creatures he once killed in the lonely hills over the fields of asphodel." [Bk XI:541-592]
"Past Ocean’s stream, and the White Rock, past the Gates of the Sun and the place of dreams, they soon reached the meadows of asphodel where the ghosts abide, the phantoms of men whose work is done." [Bk XXIV:1-56]

Various other ancient writers have mentioned the plant as well in their writings. Lucian, in his 'Dialogues of the Dead', for example:

"We were now in darkness; so Mithrobarzanes led the way, and I followed holding on to him, until we reached a great meadow of asphodel, where the shades of the dead, with their thin voices, came flitting round us." [11]

Although from a later source, we know that the plant was not just sacred to Hades as the ruler of the Fields, but to Persephone and Artemis as well. Suidas has written about the plant:

"A bulbous plant, having long leaves and an edible stem; and its seed when roasted and the root chopped up with figs fetches a high price. [It is] sacred to Persephone and the underworld [deities]. Also Rhodians wreath Kore [Persephone] and Artemis with asphodel."

It was planted on graves, and Persephone was often crowned with a garland of asphodels in ancient art. Its general connection with death is due no doubt to the greyish colour of its leaves and its yellowish flowers, which suggest the gloom of the underworld and the pallor of death. The roots were eaten by the poorer Hellenes; hence such food was thought good enough for the shades. The asphodel was also supposed to be a remedy for poisonous snake-bites and a specific against sorcery; it was fatal to mice, but preserved pigs from disease, making it a very valuable tool to the average farmer--abide a rather ominous one.