Brunsvegia natalensis

Common name: Natal candelabra Flower, Zulu name: umbhola

Driving along the Kamberg road is always a lovely treat, but at the moment the spectacular Brunsvigia natalensis clump near Dabulamanzi School and further along on the ridge, make it a particularly memorable trip.  Brunsvigia natalensis prefers marshy conditions, so is threatened as habitat is lost through draining for farming and housing activities.  Each large bulb produces between two and six flat, blunt leaves from which the almost perfectly spherical inflorescence of up to half a metre high emerges.  Often as many as 50 deep red flowers appear on the tips of the stalks, making an eye-catching display in the grassland.  The bulb has a rotten smell, which is illustrated by the Zulu name for the plant, umbhola.  The plant is deciduous and once dry, the light fruiting heads break loose and tumble across the grassland scattering seed.

Many of the 20 or so Brunsvigia species found in SA are used traditionally to soothe wounds or cure coughs. Interestingly, in her Guide to the Wildflowers of KZN, Elsa Pooley says it is used to “straighten the bones of children”. The bulbs are rich in alkaloids, which can be extremely toxic. Brunsvigia are not suited to garden conditions so remain a fleeting joy in those parts of the Midlands where their natural habitats have not yet been disturbed.

Click on any of the links below to see another Dargle wildflower