Spring Flowering Indigenous Plants for the Garden: Bulbine latifolia

Posted by on September 14, 2015

Contributor: Esther.

Photos: Esther.

Bulbine latifolia.
Pronunciation: BUL-bin-ee     lat-ee-FOH-lee-uh.

Rooiwortel.

Plant family: Asphodelaceae.

The next time you drive along the lagoon towards the White Bridge look up at the lime stone cliffs on the edge of the Lagoon road. Just above the conglomerate strata you will see many of these lovely plants clinging to the steep cliffs where they are flowering in profusion at this time of the year.

bulbine-1I have few a couple of these plants in my garden, and yearly they reward me with graceful racemes of elegant yellow flowers. Bulbine latifolia is aloe-like in appearance, having rosettes of triangular, apple-green leaves that curve back slightly and taper to a point. However the leaves are very fleshy and have no spines.

The fleshy leaves store a great deal of water, making it an ideal plant for the water wise gardener.  In prime conditions it can grow up to 30 cm tall and 30 cm across. Each rosette of leaves produces about 4 flower heads at a time;  remove stems when the flowers fade, and that will encourage   more flowers to appear.   It grows equally well in full sun as in shaded areas.  Bulbine latifolia is a fast growing  plant and is ideal for the new garden, plant on embankments and mass together on rockeries. Plants need to be replaced after   5-8 years when they lose vigour and become woody.025

Habitat: It is widely distributed in the south-eastern parts of South Africa, from Knysna in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape as far as Port Elizabeth.

Ecology: Bulbine latifolia is pollinated by insects. The  winged seed is dispersed by wind. Fleshy leaves store water and making it drought tolerant and an ideal water wise garden plant.

Uses and cultural aspects:
Bulbine latifolia is popular among the traditional healers. They harvest the roots and an infusion or decoction is made to treat vomiting and diarrhoea, but also for a number of other ailments (Van Wyk et al 1997).

Derivation of name:
The generic name Bulbine means bulb-like.  The Latin epithet latifolia refers to its broad leaves.

HELP TO 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.

Illegal harvesting of roots - confiscated at Hakerville. Photo: Johan Baard

Illegal harvesting of roots – confiscated at Harkerville. Photo: Johan Baard

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