Common names: bulbine, snake flower, cat's tail, burn jelly plant (Eng); intelezi (Xhosa); ithethe elimpofu (Zulu); balsem kopieva, geelkatstert (Afr).
Botanical name: Bulbine frutescens
Long succulent leaves, woody stems and rhizomes, clusters of yellow flowers with fluffy stamens on long stalks. Orange flowers for cultivated variety. Loved by bees as flowers profusely August to April.
Qualities – cooling, soothing, moistening, protecting
Cultivation – propagation easy form seeds and cuttings, division of clumps. Spreads out as grows in clumps, up to 1 m in a year. likes full sun and can thrive with very little water. Resistant to drought, heat and frost and can be grown easily anywhere, including a windowsill or a pot on the balcony. It thrives in almost any soil, even where little else grows. Does well and looks good in medium to large pots. Will cascade over edges. May need some pruning to keep tidy.
Conservation – no conservation concerns, widespread, common garden plant
Uses & Benefits
Actions – vulnerary, demulcent/emollient, anti-bacterial, antifungal, antioxidant. Contains glycoproteins aloctin A & B, mucilaginous polysaccharides, flavonoids, phenols.
Preparations – leaf gel direct, warm poultice, infusion
Traditional use –wounds, burns, scratches, rashes, insect bites, cracked lips, cold sores, blisters, ringworm. Bulbine gel dries to leave a flexible, protective layer over the wound that helps prevent infection and keeps the wound from drying out.
Modern use – As above. B. frutescens and B. natalensis leaf gel found, in pigs, to improve wound contraction, increased closure rate, increased epithelialisation, increase strength of new tissue, increase collagen, protein and DNA content. Anti-HIV activity invitro.
Plant safety: No safety concerns
Herbal tradition(s): Cape Herbal Medicine
Plant parts: leaves