Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Urginea maritima (L.) Bak.

Half-hardy bulbous perennial producing dense racemes of many tiny, star-shaped white flowers in late summer and autumn, followed by erect, narrow basal leaves.  To 1.5m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘This well known vegetable [Ornithogalum squilla] is a native of all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, as also of Brittany and Normandy; it has been found growing in the very sand of the sea-shore, and again at the distance of a hundred miles inland, for instance, at the foot of the Estrella mountains; so that, as Link observes, maritimum is rather a fallacious appellation.  By the Spaniards it is called Gebolla albarrana.  The bulbs are annually imported by our druggists, for whose purposes both varieties are used indifferently: they are esteemed powerfully diuretic, and administered chiefly in dropsical and asthmatical cases.  Blooms in July and August, the leaves appearing in October and November.  Miller says the plant soon decays in our gardens, and attributes the decline to want of sea-water, which cannot, however, well be the cause, as its natural situation is often at a great distance from the sea, as we stated above; with us it has been preserved for these three years in vigour, planted in a large garden pot and sheltered during winter in a common garden frame; nor do we yet discover the least symptoms of decay.  The root is frequently as big as a child’s head, and often, when fresh imported, throws out the flowering stem while lying in the shop window; the spike is sometimes a foot or more in length’  [BM t.918/1806]. 

Long used in medicine and undoubtedly an old garden plant, certainly grown since the time of Miller’s Dictionary, first published in 1724.  Despite its earlier use in pharmacy Johnson’s Dictionary states that it was introduced as a garden plant as late as 1829, which is certainly erroneous.  

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1845, 1850 and 1857 catalogues [B.406/1845] but originally received per ‘Sovereign’ February 1831.  [MP A2948].


Published Jan 09, 2010 - 04:37 PM | Last updated Jan 09, 2010 - 05:07 PM

Figured are the bulb with basal leaves and dense raceme of white starry flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.918, 1806.

Urginea maritima (L.) Bak. | BM t.918/1806 | BHL

Family Hyacinthaceae
Region of origin

Mediterranean to South Africa

  • Scilla maritima L.
  • Ornithogalum squilla Ker-Gawl.
  • Drimia maritima (L.) Stearn
Common Name

Sea onion, Sea squill, Officinal squill

Name in the Camden Park Record

Scilla maritima

Confidence level high