Drimia maritima

  (Redirected from Urginea maritima)

Drimia maritima (syn. Urginea maritima) is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae (formerly the family Hyacinthaceae).[2] This species is known by several common names, including squill, sea squill, sea onion,[3] and maritime squill.[4] It may also be called red squill, particularly a form which produces red-tinged flowers instead of white.[4] It is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.[3]

Drimia maritima
Drimia maritima - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-277.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Scilloideae
Genus: Drimia
D. maritima
Binomial name
Drimia maritima
(L.) Stearn[1]
  • Charybdis maritima (L.) Speta
  • Ornithogalum maritimum (L.) Lam.
  • Scilla maritima L.
  • Squilla maritima (L.) Steinh.
  • Stellaris scilla Moench, nom. superfl.
  • Urginea maritima (L.) Baker


This plant grows from a large bulb which can be up to 20 cm (7.9 in) wide and weigh 1 kg (2.2 lb). 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 1.5–2 m (4 ft 11 in–6 ft 7 in) in height.[4][5] The flower is about 1.5 cm (0.59 in) 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 1.2 cm (0.47 in) long.[4]


This plant often grows in rocky coastal habitat, especially in the Mediterranean Basin, where it is common.[4] It occurs in many other types of habitat, except for the driest deserts.[5] It can grow in open and also in very shady areas.[6] 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.[7]

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.[5]


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.[8] The broad leaves of this plant, when they completely dry-out, lose their toxicity and are consumed by cattle and sheep.[9] In Palestine, Arab peasants are known to use the plant to mark the butts and bounds of farm land, on account of the plant's distinct features.[9][10]


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.[7] Pythagoras wrote about it in the 6th century BC.[11] Hippocrates used it to treat jaundice, convulsions, and asthma.[4] Theophrastus was also familiar with it.[7] Its primary medicinal use was as a treatment for edema, then called dropsy, because of the diuretic properties of the cardiac glycosides.[12] A solution of sea squill and vinegar was a common remedy for centuries.[12] The plant is also used as a laxative and an expectorant.[4]


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.[4] 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.[7] Interest continued to develop as rats became resistant to coumarin-based poisons.[4][13]

It has also been tested as an insecticide against pests such as the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).[13]

Spiritual useEdit

Pythagoras and Dioscorides hung the bulbs with sprouted leaves outside the door in spring as protection against evil spirits.[4]

Ornamental useEdit

The tall inflorescences are used as cut flowers in floristry.[4]



  1. ^ a b "Drimia maritima". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  2. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L.; Fay, M.F. (2009). "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 132–136. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x.
  3. ^ a b "Drimia maritima". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Drimia maritima (maritime squill). Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  5. ^ a b c Dafni, A. and R. Dukas. (1986). Insect and wind pollination in Urginea maritima (Liliaceae). Plant Systematics and Evolution 154(1-2), 1-10.
  6. ^ 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.[dead link] Journal of Experimental Botany 50(333), 517-21.
  7. ^ a b c d Gentry, H. S., et al. (1987). Red squill (Urginea maritima, Liliaceae). Economic Botany 41(2), 267-82.
  8. ^ Metin, M. and B. Bürün. (2010). Effects of the high doses of Urginea maritima (L.) Baker extract on chromosomes.[permanent dead link] Caryologia 63(4), 367-75.
  9. ^ a b Shmida, Avi (2005). MAPA's Dictionary of Plants and Flowers in Israel (in Hebrew). Tel-Aviv: MAPA Publishers. p. 55. OCLC 716569354., s.v. Urginea maritima
  10. ^ Al-ʻĀrif, ʻĀrif (1937). History of Be'er Sheva and its Tribes (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv-Yafo: Shoshani Publishing Co. OCLC 874901157. (reprinted in Jerusalem 2000, by Ariel Publishers and Merkaz G'o Alon, OCLC 45679806)
  11. ^ Hollman, A. (1992). Plants in cardiology: Medicinal plant discovery. British Heart Journal 67(6), 506.
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ a b 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.

External linksEdit