Spring Flowering Indigenous Plants: Albuca bracteata

Posted by on September 11, 2015

Contributor: Esther Townsend

Photos: Esther

Albuca bracteata.

AL-buh-kuh  brak-tee-AY-tuh.

Common names: pregnant onion, false sea onion, and sea-onion.

Plant family:  Hyacinthaceae.

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 It was previously classified as Ornithogalum longibracteata and belongs to the same family as our beloved chincherinchee .  You can see this plant flowering in the undergrowth along the Lagoon road as you come into Knysna.  It occurs in forest, forest margins, closed woodland and sheltered slopes in the  Southern Cape coastal areas from Mossel Bay to KwaZulu-Natal, where it also extends inland to the foothills of the Drakensberg.  It is also widespread northwards into tropical East Africa.

albuca-3The pregnant onion is an old-fashioned novel houseplant that resembles an onion with numerous baby bulbs forming on its sides. The bulb is large and  smooth, opalescent, pale apple-green, and sits on top of the soil and will reach up to 10 cm in diameter.  It has long strap-like leaves that droop downward can be up to 100cm long. Flowers are in dense spikes with long-pointed bracts, whitish with broad green keels, smelling musty. It’s not an onion and should NOT be eaten.

Caution: The entire plant is toxic and some individuals may have an allergic skin reaction when touching this plant.

Cultivation:  Grow in part shade, preferably on a slope as they do not like being waterlogged and allow soil to dry between waterings.

Derivation of name: The genus name Albuca is from albus meaning white, or albicans, becoming white, thus referring to the flowers. The specific epithet bracteata means having bracts which are modified leaves directly beneath the flower.

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PROTECT OUR INDIGENOUS FLORA’S FUTURE. DO NOT BUY ANY CUT FLOWERS OR PLANTS FROM VENDORS ALONG THE N2 TOWARDS PLETTENBERG BAY.  IT IS AN OFFENCE TO COLLECT INDIGENOUS PLANTS FROM THE WILD.

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