Red squill (Urginea maritima, Liliaceae)

Research paper by H. S. Gentry, A. J. Verbiscar, T. F. Banigan

Indexed on: 01 Apr '87Published on: 01 Apr '87Published in: Economic Botany


Red squill(Urginea maritima, Liliaceae) was introduced to North American agriculture during World War II. Experimental plantings were started at Ensenada, Baja California, and later moved to La Jolla, California, as a USDA Agricultural Research Service project. In 1960 ARS turned the red squill bulbs over to four private groups. Cultivation and increase of clonal germplasm were continued by the Gentry Experimental Farm, which in 1979 was joined by collaborators for more complete studies in chemistry, propagation, and marketing. Scilliroside was confirmed as the principal toxicant. A high-performance, liquid-chromatographic method for assaying the glycosides and aglycones was developed. Growth trials in southern California established the species as well adapted to the California climate. Test plantings in Arizona indicate it as successful on irrigated, well-drained soils. It is a good producer of a rodenticide and of flowers for the cut-flower trade. Our studies indicate it could be a profitable new crop on the dry-farmed grain lands of southern California.