Amianthium muscitoxicum (Walter) A. Gray

Fly Poison

Amianthium muscitoxicum plant

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, from a bulb.

Stems - 30-100 cm, erect, unbranched, glabrous. Plant lacks odor of onion or garlic.

Amianthium muscitoxicum cauline leafAerial stem and leaf.

Leaves - Mostly basal, long and straplike, weakly pleated longitudinally. Cauline leaves greatly reduced.

Amianthium muscitoxicum basal leavesBasal leaves.

Inflorescence - No info yet.

Amianthium muscitoxicum inflorescenceInflorescences.

Flowers - Flowers with stalks 12-18 mm long, subtended by small bracts. Perianth 2.5-4.5 mm long, white, turning yellow to green to purplish tinged after flowering. Stamens 6, styles 3. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with 2 ovules

Amianthium muscitoxicum flower

Fruits - Ovoid, deeply 3-lobed capsules; lobes beaked with persistent styles.

Amianthium muscitoxicum fruitsYoung fruits.

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Mesic upland forests, lower slopes of ravines, north-facing slopes. Typically on acid substrates.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This striking species can be found mainly in the most southern counties of Missouri but a few disjunct populations are found in counties along the Missouri River. It is more common in southeastern states and into parts of New England. The plant can be identified by its long, thin basal leaves, and its dense, cylindrical inflorescence of many small, white flowers. The flowers typically change from white to yellow or even purplish with age.

A. muscitoxicum is a toxic species which contains many alkaloids. Cattle have been killed from eating the plant. An alternate name is Zigadenus muscitoxicus (Walter) Regel. The classification of these plants has been somewhat controversial, with some authors placing them into the family Melanthiaceae.

Photographs taken in the Appalachicola National Forest, FL., 3-30-05 (DETenaglia); also east of Noblett Lake, Howell County, MO, 6-4-2017 (SRTurner).