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Drimia maritima

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Drimia maritima (syn. Urginea maritima) is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae (formerly the family Hyacinthaceae).<ref name=ChasReveFay09>Template:Cite journal</ref> This species is known by several common names, including squill, sea squill, sea onion,<ref name=grin>Template:GRIN</ref> and maritime squill.<ref name=kew>Drimia maritima (maritime squill). Template:Webarchive Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.</ref> It may also be called red squill, particularly a form which produces red-tinged flowers instead of white.<ref name=kew/> It is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.<ref name=grin/>

Description

This plant grows from a large bulb which can be up to Template:Convert wide and weigh Template:Convert. Several bulbs may grow in a clump and are usually just beneath the surface of the soil. In the spring, each bulb produces a rosette of about ten leaves each up to a meter long. They are dark green in color and leathery in texture. They die away by fall, when the bulb produces a tall, narrow raceme of flowers. This inflorescence can reach Template:Convert in height.<ref name=kew/><ref name=dafni>Dafni, A. and R. Dukas. (1986). Insect and wind pollination in Urginea maritima (Liliaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution 154(1-2), 1-10.</ref> The flower is about Template:Convert wide and has six tepals each with a dark stripe down the middle. The tepals are white, with the exception of those on the red-flowered form. The fruit is a capsule up to Template:Convert long.<ref name=kew/>

Ecology

This plant often grows in rocky coastal habitat, especially in the Mediterranean Basin, where it is common.<ref name=kew/> It occurs in many other types of habitat, except for the driest deserts.<ref name=dafni/> It can grow in open and also in very shady areas.<ref>Grammatikopoulos, G., et al. (1999). Site-dependent differences in transmittance and UV-B-absorbing capacity of isolated leaf epidermes and mesophyll in Urginea maritima (L.) Baker. Journal of Experimental Botany 50(333), 517-21.</ref> Its habit of producing leaves in the spring and flowers in the fall is an adaptation to the Mediterranean climate of its native range, where the summers are hot and dry.<ref name=gentry>Gentry, H. S., et al. (1987). Red squill (Urginea maritima, Liliaceae). Economic Botany 41(2), 267-82.</ref>

This species has two different pollination syndromes, entomophily and anemophily; it is pollinated by insects and wind. Insect pollinators include the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the Oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis), and the paper wasp species Polistes gallicus.<ref name=dafni/>

Uses

The plant has been used as a poison and as a medicinal remedy. The main active compounds are cardiac glycosides, including unique bufadienolides such as glucoscillaren A, proscillaridine A, scillaren A, scilliglaucoside and scilliphaeoside. The plant can have a cardiac glycoside content of up to 3%. Scilliroside, the most important of the toxic compounds, is present in all parts of the plant.<ref name=metin>Metin, M. and B. Bürün. (2010). Effects of the high doses of Urginea maritima (L.) Baker extract on chromosomes.Template:Dead link Caryologia 63(4), 367-75.</ref>

Medicine

This species has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times. It is noted in the Ebers Papyrus of the 16th century BC, one of the oldest medical texts of ancient Egypt.<ref name=gentry/> Pythagoras wrote about it in the 6th century BC.<ref name=holl>Hollman, A. (1992). Plants in cardiology: Medicinal plant discovery. British Heart Journal 67(6), 506.</ref> Hippocrates used it to treat jaundice, convulsions, and asthma.<ref name=kew/> Theophrastus was also familiar with it.<ref name=gentry/> Its primary medicinal use was as a treatment for edema, then called dropsy, because of the diuretic properties of the cardiac glycosides.<ref name=stan>Stannard, J. (1974). Squill in ancient and medieval materia medica, with special reference to its employment for dropsy. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 50(6), 684.</ref> A solution of sea squill and vinegar was a common remedy for centuries.<ref name=stan/> The plant is also used as a laxative and an expectorant.<ref name=kew/>

Poison

The plant has also been used as a poison. It is very bitter, so most animals avoid it. Rats, however, eat it readily, and then succumb to the toxic scilliroside. This has made the plant a popular rodenticide for nearly as long as it has been in use as a medicine.<ref name=kew/> The bulbs are dried and cut into chips, which can then be powdered and mixed with rat bait. The plant was introduced as an experimental agricultural crop in the 20th century primarily to develop high-toxicity varieties for use as rat poison.<ref name=gentry/> Interest continued to develop as rats became resistant to coumarin-based poisons.<ref name=kew/><ref name=pasc>Pascual-Villalobos, M. J. Anti-insect activity of bufadienolides from Urginea maritima. p. 564–66. In: Janick, J. and A. Whipkey (eds.) Trends in New Crops and New Uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA. 2002.</ref>

It has also been tested as an insecticide against pests such as the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).<ref name=pasc/>

Spiritual use

Pythagoras and Dioscorides hung the bulbs with sprouted leaves outside the door in spring as protection against evil spirits.<ref name=kew/>

Ornamental use

The tall inflorescences are used as cut flowers in floristry.<ref name=kew/>

Gallery

References

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External links

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