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Top 5 Indigenous Bulbs for Summer

Bulbine abyssinica

(Golden Stars)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant and drought resistant. Plant these Bulbine in the sun for a show of yellow flowers in summer. It is ideal as a rockery or bedding plant. This is a Highveld specie which is ideal for small gardens and as a cut flower. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs.

Eucomis autumnalis

(Pineapple Flower)

An apt name for this deciduous groundcover, as the flower looks just like a pineapple, which are yellow/green in colour and open in summer. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a good cut flower for the vase as it’s long lasting and most unusual. It is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. Hangovers are cured by making a brew from the bulb. It is also used for kidney and bladder ailments. The leaves are used as a poultice for boils and skin problems and they are also used to treat a fever. Cattle are treated for gall sickness. A brew is used as an enema for a protective charm or the bulb is mixed with animal fat and this is rubbed into the body to protect one from illness and evil. The name is derived from the Greek eukomes=beautifully haired, eu=well and kome=hair of the head referring to the crown of leaves at the top of the flower.

Hypoxis hemerocallidea

(Star Flower)

This deciduous bulb is frost resistant, water wise and grows in full sun in our grasslands. The yellow flowers open in Spring-Summer and they attract butterflies and bees. This popular medicinal plant is used for many ailments but is threatened by harvesting. The tuberous rootstock is traditionally used. Weak infusions and decoctions of the corm are used as a strengthening tonic and during convalescence, against tuberculosis and cancer. It is also used for prostate hypertrophy, urinary tract infections, testicular tumors, as a laxative, childbirth and to expel intestinal worms. Anxiety, palpitations, depression and rheumatoid arthritis are further ailments treated with the plant. The leaves are used to make rope. The leaves and tuber are used as a dye and give a black colour, which is used to blacken floors. The star flower is a very attractive, hardy garden plant. It is drought-tolerant, frost-resistant, very easy to grow and an asset to any garden. It grows well in full sun in well-drained soil. Hypoxis hemerocallidea flowers freely throughout summer. The yellow star-like flowers are eye-catching in any setting. It is excellent for a rockery or as a border to flower beds, but is also suitable for container planting. When not in flower, the leaves are attractive and striking with their geometric triangular arrangement. The bulbs are dormant in winter and need to be kept dry. The leaves die down after the summer, but appear in later winter, often before the summer rains. The name is derived from the Greek hypo = beneath, less than; oxys- sharp pointed, sour referring to the leaves which are acid.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, antifungal and is used to treat TB and intestinal worms. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

Zantedeschia aethiopica

(White Arum Lily, Pig's Lily)

Commonly called 'Pig's Lily' as the tubers were boiled and fed to the pigs. Porcupines also enjoy the tubers. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb, then braised with onions and chilli. A much loved evergreen groundcover which is fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. The large white flowers occur in spring and they attract birds and butterflies. There’s a multitude of uses for this much loved flower, either in wetlands, near water features or in containers. It has medicinal uses as the warmed leaves are used on sores, boils, insect bites, for gout, ulcers, headaches and rheumatism. The leaves must not be crushed as the juice is an irritant. Leaf, root and stem extracts show antibiotic properties.The leaves produce a yellow dye. The flowers are long lasting in a vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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