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Seaside squill – l-għansar

The Seaside squill or l-għansar in Maltese is frequently found in Maritime garigue and steppes. Its leaves are large, basal, spear-shaped, disappearing before the flowers appear. Its bulb is very large,and they grow up to 15cm in diameter, often on, or close to the surface.

Its flowers borne on a long flower stem, are up to 150cm tall. The flowers are white, with each of the six ‘petals’ with a median green or purplish stripe and they appear between the months of August and October.

This plant is interesting in that it flowers in late summer, when all its leaves are shed and nearby vegetation is mostly dry. Apart from the Maltese islands, this species is confined to central and western Mediterranean islands, it being replaced elsewhere in the Mediterranean by similar species.

This plant was first described from Maltese material and it was used in heart, renal and respiratory diseases, due to its diuretic and expectorant properties. It was also a good source of a powerful rat poison, since it is very poisonous. Up to the early 20th century it was exported in large quantities, in dried slices, which led to it becoming, at that time, a threatened species.

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