Bulbinella (Bulbine frutescens). Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.

Bulbine

Bulbine

Bulbine frutescens

 

Common Names: Afrikaans: balsemkopiva, copaiba, geelkatstert, katstert

 

English: snake flower, cat’s tail, burn jelly plant, stalked bulbine, grass aloe

 

Description:

 

There are over 50 species of bulbine, and many are used by our traditional herbalists including B.

 

asphodeloides (wildekopiva), B. alooides (rooistorm), B. narcissifolia (geelslangkop), B. natalensis

 

(rooiwortel), and B. latifolia.

 

Bulbine frutescens is an aloe-like succulent plant with a rosette of long, fleshy, yellow-green 

 

leaves. Long flower stems bear elongated clusters of small, yellow-orange flowers with

 

characteristically fluffy stamens.

 

 

 

This is a popular, waterwise garden plant, especially when planted en masse as a ground cover, or in rock gardens. It is also cultivated for its medicinal properties.

 


It is a fast growing, branched, succulent perennial with fleshy, linear green leaves in opposite rows and clasping the stems at the base. It forms spreading clumps with greyish stems often bearing adventitious roots. The small 6-petaled star shaped flowers are carried on an upright, spreading raceme during spring (or occasionally at other times). The petals are either yellow or sometimes orange, which combines attractively with the fluffy yellow stamens to give a bi-coloured look. The fruit is a small, rounded capsule and contains black seeds which are dispersed by wind.

 

Bulbine frutescens occurs widespread throughout parts of Northern Cape, Western and Eastern Cape; however, it reaches its peak in the succulent-rich, dry valleys of Eastern Cape.

 

Medicinal Properties:

 

Bulbine frutescens is one of nature’s extraordinary medicinal plants, a first-aid pharmacy in one

 

The fresh leaf produces a jelly-like juice that is wonderful for burns, rashes, blisters, insect bites, cracked lips, acne, cold sores, mouth ulcers and areas of cracked skin.

 

 

 

An infusion is made of a few fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water. The strained drink is taken for coughs, colds and arthritis.

 

 

 

Cultivation:

 

This is a an easy to grow, waterwise, floriferous groundcover, which with the minimum of care, will look good all year round. It combines beautifully with blue dwarf agapanthus, flowering at the same time. It does well and looks good in medium to large pots. Will cascade over edges. May need some pruning to keep tidy.

 

 

 

Bulbine frutescens likes full sun but they will also grow in semi-shade for part of the day and can thrive with very little water. Resistant to drought, heat and frost it can be grown easily anywhere, including a windowsill or a pot on the balcony. It thrives in almost any soil, even where little else grows. Space plants 20-30cm apart. This succulent perennial multiplies rapidly. The dead flower heads should be removed to encourage further flowering.

 

 

 

Propagation:

 

 

 

Propogation is best done in Spring. Easy from seed or from cuttings and division of clumps. Any piece with a bit of stem will root quickly. The cuttings can be planted immediately and kept in a shady area. They do not need any special attention or treatment, and build strong roots in a couple of months.

 

 

 

Bulbine frutescens will thrive with a little compost and a watering once a week or so. Will flower almost year round but is mostly dormant in summer, blooming in the spring, and then again in autumn, attracting an abundance of bees.

 

 

 

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