Tag Archives: Medicinal plants

Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.


Carrion Flower – Orbea variegata. Native to the Southwestern and southern cape of South Africa.


Today John the Farmer is processing mustard seed


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



Bulbine frutescens


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


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




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.






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.








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.




Kanna, Kougoed (Sceletium tortuosum). Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.

Sceletium tortuosum


Kanna/ kougoed (Sceletium tortuosum)

The name is derived from the latin word sceletus (skeleton), referring to the permanent leaf veins which persist as a skeleton-like structure in the dry leaves. Kanna or kougoed (meaning something to chew) are well known vernacular names.

These vygies spread, covering the ground or growing into the bushes they commonly grow under.

The Flower is white with a yellow center and is the official flower for the region known as Kannaland.

Flowering begins in spring and lasts well into summer. The genus occurs in Karroid rocky inland areas of the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape provinces.

Plants thrive under cultivation with partial shade. Propagation is from seed sown in autumn or cuttings made in spring.

This once-abundant plant is now listed as endangered by the CITES convention on international trade as it was heavily exploited during the colonial period for its anti-anxiety properties. The fermented and dried plant material is also known as an appetite suppressor.

Sour fig (Carpobrotus acinaciformis). Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.

Sour fig

Sour fig


Carpobrotus acinaciformis (Sour fig, Suurvy)


The name is derived from the Greek words karpos (fruit) and brota (edible). The common names suurvy and sour fig are widely used. (1)


This fleshy succulent is a perennial mat-like creeper. The large purple flowers develop into a fragrant fleshy sour-sweet friut often sold on street markets in the Cape. The fruit is used in jams and curry dishes. The leaf juice is said to be mildly antiseptic and highly astringent, traditionally gargled to treat infections of the mouth and throat. (2)


The more common Carpobrotus edulis (yellow flowers) originally occurred in sandy areas in the western, southern and eastern cape but it is now commonly grown in many parts of the world often as a ground cover to stabilize banks. C. acinaciformis has a restricted distribution and is more or less confined to the Western Cape. (2)


Species of Carpobrotus flower abundantly from early spring to summer. Flowers open in the morning and close at night. Plants grow easily from cuttings or seeds and are tolerant of a wide range of soils. (1)




  1. Mesembs of the world
  2. Medicinal plants of South Africa by Ben-erik van wyk, Bosch van Oudtshoorn, Nigel Gericke.

Indigenous, medicinal and succulent plants on their way to the Ladismith xmas craft market tommorrow @ Oude Pastorie from 5pm

Ladismith country market

Ladismith country market

Indigenous Medicinal and Succulent plants at the Ladismith country market tommorrow @ Oude Pastorie.

Sypaadjie mark

Sypaadjie Mark

John the Farmer visited Kirstenbosch botanical gardens.

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Helichrysum petiolare. Featured plant at Towerkop nursery




A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m – 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flowerheads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer (December and January).


Helichrysum petiolare occurs in the drier inland parts, sheltered slopes and forest margins of the Western Cape (Cederburg and Jonkershoek Mountains), Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.


The name Helichrysum is derived from the Greek (h)elios for sun and chrysos for gold, although not all species have golden flowers; petiolare refers to long leaf stalks. Common names are Imphepho, Kooigoed, Everlastings, a reference to the persistent flower heads

Uses and cultural aspects

Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems and high blood pressure. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.

The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding; campers still do the same today. Burning a mixture of Helichrysum and Artemisia afra leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes away.

The essential oil has been investigated for its anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It forms a component of traditional African medicine. The leaves and twigs are boiled and prepared as a sort of tea to soothe coughs and fever. The leaves are also applied to wounds to prevent infection, and are ceremonially burnt to produce a traditional incense.[


This plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed sown in autumn (March). It should be planted in full sun in well-drained soil. This decorative plant spreads rapidly and should be cut back occasionally.

Helichrysum petiolare is a a silver-hued foliage plant ideal for edging, beddingand containers. Licorice plant provides a cool backdrop for pastels and contrasts well with jeweltoned blooms and foliage. It is also drought tolerant and very easy to grow. The plant is grown as a perennial where hardy and an annual bedding plant where tender. It prefers full sun and tolerates partial shade

The cultivar Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ has luminescent yellow-green foliage in place of the usual grey. It does well in semi-shade and looks good inter-planted with dark coloured foliage plants to create interesting contrasts. It is short lived and need replacing every 2 years.


plantzafrica. com


Pelargonium crispum. Featured plant at Towerkop Nursery.

Pelagonium crispum

Pelargonium crispum

Pelargonium crispum  

Pelargonium crispum is an erect, much-branched shrub that grows up to 700 mm tall. The young stems are soft and green and become woody when older. The leaves are lemon-scented, fan-shaped and the leaf margins are crisped. The leaves are distichous, meaning that they are arranged one above the other in two opposite rows. The flowers are single or in clusters of 2or 3 and are borne on short peduncles. They are white to dark pink and about 25 mm in diameter. The flower tube is about 5–8 mm long. The species flowers from August-April with a peak in September and October. The leaves and young shoots can be used for essential oils. Leaves can also be dried and used in potpourri.

Pelargonium crispum can be grown from seed and cuttings. Sow seeds in autumn. Fill seed trays with a light, well-drained potting soil. Spread the seeds evenly on top of the soil. Cover seeds with a thin layer of white sand. Water thoroughly with watering can with a fine spray. Place trays in a lightly shaded area. Germination usually takes place within 4 weeks. Pelargoniums grown from seed are generally more vigorous than those grown from cuttings. Transplant seedlings into the garden or in pots. The plant can grow easily in a garden with damp to moist soils in full sun.

Cuttings can be grown at any time of the year. Take young stem cuttings 150 mm long and apply a rooting hormone to stimulate the rooting process. Insert them into prepared holes. The cuttings are then placed in a cold frame to root. Rooting usually takes about 3–4 weeks. Once the cuttings have rooted, pot them in a well-drained potting soil mix. Feed the newly rooted cuttings with a liquid seaweed-based fertilizer.

Pelargonium crispum  is ideal for any garden as it can withstand extreme temperatures and flowers for most of the year.

References and further reading

  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of
  • South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria and Missouri Botanical Garden Press.
  • Van der Walt, J.J.A. & Vorster, P.J. 1988. Pelargoniums of southern Africa, vol. 3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Town.