Crown Imperial – Fritillaria imperialis

Crown Imperial
Crown Imperial

This plant of the Lily family is native to the area known as the Near East, which includes a wide stretch from Anatolia (in Turkey) across the plateau of Iran to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Himalayan foothills. In the wild it tends to like cliffs, rocky slopes and being among scrub. Here in the northern hemisphere it blooms in late April and May producing a large whorl of downward facing flowers which circle the top of the stem. Their colors range from scarlet through oranges and yellow in cultivation, with the wild varieties being predominantly orange-red.

There is very little use in Aromatherapy as the smell of the flowers is reminiscent of wet fur and garlic. Even the scent of the bulbs is repellant to rodents!

The alkaloid imperialine is present in the bulbs and is a distinct cardiac poison. Even so, the bulb is diuretic, emollient and resolvent. It can be used as an expectorant and to encourage production of breast milk. The toxic alkaloid can be rendered harmless by cooking, but great caution should still be exerted in its use!

In legend the Crown Imperial is the only flower that did not bow its head as Jesus passed. When he turned and looked at the plant, it bowed its head in shame. You will note that at the base of each flower drops of nectar form, it is claimed these are the tears the flower has shed ever since the time of Christ!

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