Narthecium ossifragum, commonly known as bog-, Lancashire- or bastard asphodel, is a plant of Western Europe, found on wet, boggy moorlands up to about 1000 m in elevation. It produces spikes of bright yellow flowers in summer. The bright orange fruits have been used as a colourant to replace saffron by Shetland Islanders. Despite the plant's English name, it is not particularly closely related to the true asphodels.
The Latin specific name means "bone-breaker", and refers to a traditional belief that eating the plant caused sheep to develop brittle bones. The probable origin of this story is that sheep eating a calcium-poor diet are likely to develop bone weakness, and N. ossifragum favours acidic low-calcium soils.
The plant causes a disease of sheep called alveld, "elf fire", in Norway. Not all stands of the plant are toxic, and the toxicity may be the side effect of the plant's response to a fungal infection.
It can be found in purple moor grass and rush pastures.
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- Richard Mabey Flora Britannica
- Handbook of Plant and Fungal Toxicants by J. P. Felix D'Mello
- George B. B. Mitchell, 'Non-parasitic skin diseases of sheep' In Pract., Vol. 10, Issue 2, 69-73, March 1, 1988
- Arne Flåøyen, 'Studies on the aetiology and pathology of alveld'
- Sterry, Paul (2006). Complete British wild flowers. London: Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-720469-4.
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