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Seaside Squill (52)

seaside squillThe Seaside Squill in Maltese, Basal ta’ l-Għansar or Għansar, (Scientific name: Urginea pancration) is commonly found near the sea, on rocky grounds and steppe- a habitat usually characterised by herbaceous plants. This bulbous plant is considered to be an endemic to Malta, Sicily and other islands of the Central Mediterranean region and interestingly was first described from Maltese material.

The tough, glossy green leaves of the Seaside Squill are broad, lance-shaped and borne in rosettes. During the flowering season it has a talk stalk, which may reach to a height of 1.5 metres and topped by an inflorescence bearing many rosy-white small flowers. It usually flowers in August to September, just before the emergence of the leaves.

The Seaside Squill grows from a large ess-shaped to globe-shape underground bulb found just at the soil surface and interestingly the dried bulb has been used medicinally for centuries, mainly as a diuretic or cardiac tonic. Additionally, it has also been utilised in cases of renal diseases, chronic bronchitis, catarrhal affections and asthma. Due to the plant’s high toxicity, caution is undertaken when using this specimen for medicinal purposes and in fact, in the past it had also been used as a powerful rat or mouse poison.

The Seaside Squill which is part of our Maltese heritage is considered to a plant of national interest and may be subject to management measures, if these are deemed necessary. This species has been included in the ‘Red Data Book for the Maltese Islands’ since it has a restricted distribution on our Islands.