+27 (082) 881 6251 • PERMITS ARE AVAILABLE AT SEVERAL OUTLETS IN TOWN • chairperson@clarensvillageconservancy.com

Scilla natalensis

written by Admin
10 · 11 · 21

Merwilla plumbea (Scilla natalensis) is a graceful perennial bulb, and with its tall plumes of blue flowers, the showiest of the South African scillas. It is deciduous, growing during summer and dormant in the winter. It can grow up to 1 m tall, often in large colonies on cliffs and rocky slopes. Widespread in eastern summer rainfall areas. 

The Flower

A rosette of 6 to 9 broad, tapering leaves emerges from the top of the bulb in spring. The leaves are attractive in their own right, with clearly distinct veins which give them a two-tone effect, particularly when back-lit. Their colour is light green with white-grey overtones, they can be entirely green, or they can have purplish colouring on the margins, at the base or at the apex of the leaf, or the underside can be partially or entirely shaded with purple. They can be completely hairless, or one or both sides can be covered in short hairs. The leaves of a well-grown plant can reach a height of 30 to 50 cm with about equal spread.

Traditional medicine

The ash from a burnt plant, and the bulb in powdered form, is rubbed into cuts and scratches, and over sprains and fractures. Decoctions are taken as enemas for female infertility and to enhance male potency and libido. It is also known to be used as a purgative, a laxative and for internal tumours, and is used in conjunction with other ingredients in infusions taken during pregnancy to facilitate delivery and in treatments for chest pain and kidney troubles. It is also an ingredient in a medicinal preparation for cattle suffering from lung sickness. It has magical properties for the Tswana who rub the powdered bulb into the back, joints and other body parts to increase their strength and resistance to witchcraft. The plant appears to have significant analgesic and antimicrobial activity, and phytochemical studies have found that it contains compounds known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-mutagenic properties which would support its use for the treatment of strains, sprains and cancers.

Toxicity

Merwilla plumbea has shown itself to be selectively toxic to mammals. It is said to be poisonous to stock, particularly when the young leaves appear in spring. Experiments on sheep, using fresh bulb as a drench, proved fatal to the sheep, yet it has been proven an ineffective rat poison. It is apparently toxic to man when raw, even the sap is reported to burn the skin, and for any preparations taken internally the plant must first be heated. This plant should be treated with extreme caution, as taking any part of it internally is potentially fatal. 

What is in a name?

Merwilla plumbea is the name given to a combination of several speciesnamely S. kraussii, S. natalensis and S. plumbea. This description pertains primarily to the form previously known as Scilla natalensis. This genus has been named after F van der Merwe, a botanist who worked on this family. The species name refers to the lead blue colour of the flowers. 

The Afrikaans name blouberglelie, which means blue mountain lily, is also applied to other South African species of Scilla and is a name that has been in use for hundreds of years. It earned the name blouslangkop, which means blue snake’s head, presumably because the emerging flower stalk resembles a snake, and the tips of the flower stalks are often coloured bluish-purple. The Zulu name inguduza means “searching the body for the cause of the ailment”, indicating its use in KwaZulu-Natal as a diagnostic tool.

Source: SANBI

Photos: Joan Keyter

 

Related
Posts

Titanic Challenge Trail Run

Titanic Challenge Trail Run

The atmosphere at the first cross country race the CVC ever organised was electric, the weather played its part, and most of the athletes proved that they were indeed Up for The Challenge! The 35km run kicked off at 7 am, the 21km at 7:30am, and the 10km run at 8:15am...

read more
How it came to be

How it came to be

The original dam was built in the early days of Clarens. It fed the old waterworks (remains of which can still be seen downstream) and as the demand for water grew in the eighties the wall of the dam was raised to its present level but no provision was made for a...

read more
Who wants to live forever?

Who wants to live forever?

If you are an everlasting, then yes! And when you opt to live in the grasslands of Clarens, you just may succeed. As long as you follow the example of proteas and group your two types of florets in your single head with floret, set in the middle as inconspicuously as...

read more
What Owl

What Owl

In Clarens and its surroundings, there are five different owl species with the Spotted Eagle-Owl being the most common.The other species are:Western Barn OwlAfrican Grass-OwlMarsh OwlCape Eagle-OwlSpotted Eagle Owl Height: Male 43cm, Female 47cm Weight: Male 540g,...

read more

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!