Bulbine frutescens is an attractive, succulent shrub that makes a very good groundcover. The flowers are yellow or orange and are borne on slender spikes from August through summer to June. The sap from the leaves has wonderful skin healing properties. As it is drought hardy and cold hardy it makes a good plant for areas that are prone to neglect.

Because they are so hardy, Bulbine frutescens is often used by gardeners and landscapers in areas that need to look good, but where conditions are harsh and do not receive optimum maintenance.

Because they are so hardy, Bulbine frutescens is often used by gardeners and landscapers in areas that need to look good, but where conditions are harsh and do not receive optimum maintenance.

 

Family:                                 Asphodelaceae                (Aloe family)

Name Derivation:

  • Bulbine – bulbous plants.
  • frutescens – shruby

Common Names:

  • Snake flower, stalked Bulbine (Eng), geelkatstert, balsemkopiva (Afr), ibhucu and elimpofu (Zul).

Form:                                   A small, shrubby, succulent groundcover.

Size:                                      40 cm by 60 cm.

 Flower:

  • Small, star-shaped flowers that have feathery stamens.
  • Borne on an upright inflorescence (30 cm).
  • Flowers open (and close) progressively from the bottom of the spike upwards.
  • Free flowering.

Colour:                             Yellow or orange.

Fragrant:                            No fragrance.

Flowering Months:         Sep – Jun.

The flowers of Bulbine frutescens may be yellow or orange.

The flowers of Bulbine frutescens may be yellow or orange.

 Foliage:

  • Evergreen.
  • The leaves are elongated and cylindrical, (up to 15 cm by .5 cm), tapering to a pointed tip.

Thorns:                           No thorns.

Fruit:                               The fruit is a small dry capsule.

 In the Garden:

  • This plant is a useful groundcover in areas where regular maintenance difficult.
  • Can be very showy when mass planted.
  • Very popular with landscape designers for dry and cold areas that require tough plants.
  • Planted with plants with blue flowers, like Felicia ameloides or blue Agapanthus can create a wonderful effect.
  • Plant a few plants close to the house as a medicine chest for burns, bites and stings.

Planting spacing:    4 per square metre.

 Soil Needs:                 Will grow in most soil types.

 Care:

  • A low maintenance garden plant.
  • Feed with a mulch of compost.
  • Plants respond well to fairly regular watering.
  • Remove the old flower heads to encourage more flowering and to keep plants neat.

Cold Hardiness:                Hardy.

Water Requirements:    Very drought resistant, but responds well to regular watering.

Light Requirements:     Light shade to full sun.

 Roots:                                   Not invasive.

Birds:                                   Not a recognized bird plant.

Butterflies:                The flowers attract adult butterflies

Bees:                           Bees are attracted to the flowers.

Medicinal:                         

  • The sap from the leaves is widely used as a treatment for cuts, burns, rashes, acne and eczema.
  • This sap will also bring relief to bee and scorpion stings and mosquito bites.
  • It can also be used to treat cracked lips.

Poisonous:                         Not Poisonous.

Notes of interest:      

  • The leaves contain compounds that are very similar to those found in Aloe vera
  • Have often, incorrectly, been called Bulbinella.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the western NC, WC, EC, Les, FS, KZN, Swa, M, L, G and NW.
  • Endemic to southern Africa.

Natural Habitat:            Succulent Karoo, Nama-karoo, fynbos, grassland and bushveld-savvana.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2017.