Bulbine – Bulbine frutescens

Bulbine - Bulbine frutescens
Bulbine – Bulbine frutescens

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

Family: Asphodelaceae 

NOT ‘bulbinella’


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

Family: Asphodelaceae

Plant-animal relations: bees, butterflies


Soil type: 

Soil pH: 

Propagation methods:

Conservation status: Not threatened

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

Herb qualities: 

Plant preparations: gel, infusion, poultice

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