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Top 5 Indigenous Bulbs for Autumn

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Gladiolus dalenii

(Gladiolus)

These beautiful bulbs bear yellow and orange flowers in late summer. It is pollinated by sunbirds that are attracted to the nectar. They are undemanding bulbs which do benefit from liberal amounts of good compost. The leaves are used to make ropes and the bushpigs enjoy eating the corms. The ground corm is ground into a fine meel, and this is used medicinally to treat chest ailments caused by sorcery, colds and dysentry. The Sotho and Zulu make a tea from the corm to treat coughs and colds. The corms and leaves are burnt and the inhaled smoke is said to clear a blocked nose. It is also used as a good luck charm, a love charm. and a fertility charm for sterility in women. The flowers can be eaten fresh or they can be added to cooked vegetables, stews or soups.These bulbs were taken to England in the 1700's where is was cultivated in Greenhouses and many hybids have been developed. The name is derived fro the Latin gladiolus = a small sword which refers to the shape of the leaves. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Scadoxus puniceus

(Paintbrush)

This deciduous bulb is rare and worth trying to track down. It has huge crimson flowers that open in spring and last for about 4 months during summer. The bright red seeds then fill the space and are quite eye-catching. As it is deciduous one doesn't have to worry about it during a frosty winter. It prefers a very shady garden and even does well indoors. Although the bulb is poisonous it is used in traditional medicine. The roots are used to treat a couch, headaches and pregnancy. Named from the Greek scias= that which you know and the Greek doxus = glorious splendid referring to the magnificent, bright crimson flowers. A glorious umbrel.

Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katharinae

(Katherine Wheel)

This is one of our most beautiful bulbs. The word ‘mutiflorus’ refers to the large flower which is 25 cm in diameter and is made up of numerous smaller flowers to form a ball. They are pinklish, orangy red and last for about 2 weeks. The seed is red when ripe so just as attractive. It likes moist shade and occurs from the Eastern Cape all the way up into Central Africa. I shall never forget the first time I saw it in flower at Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. It literally stops you in your tracks. Although it is poisonous it is also used medicinally and to make love charms. Named from the Greek scias= that which you know and the Greek doxus = glorious splendid referring to the magnificent, bright orange red flowers. A glorious umbrel.

Watsonia pillansii

(Watsonia)

This is an evergreen Watsonia which flowers with Orange red flowers from late summer into autumn. They stand 50 cm tall and attract butterflies and birds. They prefer full sun and are water wise. They are very pretty if mass planted or even if one plants clumps of them in a sunny spot. Named for William Watson (1715-1787) and English physician, apothecary, botanist and naturalist and Neville Stuart Pillans ( 1808-1904)

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