Other Names /
Afrikaans: balsemkopieva, copaiba, geelkatstert,
English: catís tail, bum jelly plant, stalked
bulbine, grass aloe
Sotho: Khomo-ya-Ntsukammele, sehlare-sa-pekane,
Xhosa: intelezi, ingelwane
Zulu: ibhucu, intelezi
Note: The name
Bulbinella is often used Ėeven by Margaret Roberts - to name many
of this large group of plants. This is incorrect as Bulbinella is
a completely different species.
There are more than 50 Bulbine species
and several are used medicinally by our traditional healers. These
include B. asphodeloides (wildekopiva), B. alooides
(rooistorm), B. narcissifolia (geelslangkop), B.
natalensis (rooiwortel), and B. latifolia.
There is also a variety with orange flowers.
is indigenous to South Africa and it occurs naturally in the
Orange Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and parts of all the Cape
is an aloe-like succulent plant with a rosette of fleshy, thorn
less, straw-coloured leaves.
The many small (about 10mm) yellow (or orange)
flowers are borne in elongated clusters on long, thin
flowering stems. The hairy stamens are an easy way to
distinguish Bulbine species from similar plants.
The fruit is a 3-chambered capsule
containing ovoid, black seeds.
The fresh leaves and roots are used.
Most nurseries and garden centres stock plants.
Indigenous seed suppliers stock seeds.
B. asphodeloides, B. natalensis
(rooiwortel), and B. latifolia are harvested in the wild
and sold on the various muti markets.
is a popular groundcover.
The stems and roots contains anthraquinones
such as chrysophanol and knipholone but according to Van Wyk et.
al. these compounds are probably of minor importance in the
healing of wounds.
is mainly employed as a vulnerary. It also has antibacterial
Bulbine frutescens is one of natureís finest
medicinal plants. Itís a remarkable first aid medicine chest all
Externally the freshly squeezed juice,
frequently applied, is amazingly effective to take care of a wide
range of skin conditions and wounds.
The list is almost endless: acne, burns,
blisters, cold sores (even in your mouth and nose), cracked lips,
cracked fingers, nails and heels, insect bites, itchy places,
fever blisters, mouth ulcers, sunburn, rashes and ringworm.
Itís also very effective for treating wounds,
sores and rashes on animals.
You can also make a warm poultice and apply it
to the affected area to treat any of the above as well as eczema
Internally an infusion (sometimes a brandy
tincture) of a few fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water is taken
for coughs, colds and arthritis.
Used externally Bulbine species are
reasonably safe. Check for allergic reactions.
Use with caution internally.
Preparations and Dosage
The fresh leaf sap is applied directly to the
skin or in the form of a warm poultice.
For internal use, an infusion of the roots or a
brandy tincture, is taken two or three times a day.
Bulbine Growing Tips
Position and Soil
is drought, heat and frost resistant and can be grown almost
anywhere. Even flat dwellers will find that they can easily grow a
specimen or two on a sunny windowsill or in a large pot on a
It thrives in any soil and is extensively used
by the landscape industry in places where little else seems to
grow such as road islands and rocky hillsides.
It likes full sun and needs very little water.
Space plants 20-30cm apart.
Propagation is very easy from seed or from the
division of clumps. Any piece pulled off a clump with a bit of
stem will root in no time at all. The best time to propagate is in
Just give it the odd spadeful of compost and a
thorough watering once a week and youíll have a most handsome and
rewarding garden plant.
It grows so easily that it can become untidy.
So it needs regular pruning.
It makes a superb and interesting container
subject. Use a good potting soil with some compost added, and a
medium to large container.
It will soon tumble over the edges and reward
you with a joyful abundance of yellow flowers for most of the
Harvesting and Preserving
Simply cut off a piece whenever needed. As it
is best used fresh donít try to dry it. You can make a tincture
Dyson, A. 1998. Discovering Indigenous
Healing Plants. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.
Hutchings, A. et al. 1996. Zulu Medicinal
Plants. Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
Pujol, J. 1990. Naturafrica Ė the Herbalist
Handbook. Jean Pujol Natural Healerís Foundation. Durban.
Roberts, M. 1990. Indigenous Healing Plants.
Southern Book Publishers. Halfway House.
Van Wyk, B. et al. 1997. Medicinal Plants of
Southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
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