DescriptionBulbine abyssinica is a succulent, perennial herb which grows in small clusters. The soft, dark green leaves are erect or arching, linear, grass-like and up to 350 mm long. Several dense, many-flowered, spike-like inflorescences are formed from a cluster of plants during spring. The inflorescence lengthens as the flowers open and can become up to 0.8 m tall. The bright yellow flowers are star-shaped with bearded stamens and mature from the bottom of the inflorescence, with about ten flowers open at a time. The stalks of the old flowers and fruit are straight and project at almost right angles from the central axis of the inflorescence. Mature fruits are black, ± 4 mm in diameter and often covered with the faded perianth (flower petals) persisting as a cap.
Distribution and habitat
Bulbine abyssinica occurs from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Lesotho, Free State, North-West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and further north to Ethiopia. It favours rocky grassland and shallow soil overlying rock, but can also be found in woodland and along seepage areas. It frequently forms small colonies.
Owing to its wide distribution, this species is suitable for cultivation throughout the summer rainfall region. It is both frost and drought tolerant and can cope with a wide range of temperatures. In dry, hot years, plants tend to be smaller and have fewer inflorescences than in years of good rainfall.
This species is insect pollinated and is frequently visited by bees.
Uses and cultural aspects
Bulbine abyssinica is often used in traditional medicine to treat dysentery, bilharzia and cracked lips.