Boophone disticha

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Botanical Name
Boophone disticha
Amaryllidaceae - The amaryllis family.
bo-OFF-on-ee DIS-tik-uh
Common Name(s)
English: Bushman Poison Bulb; Century Plant; Sore-eye Flower
Afrikaans: Boesmangifbol; Perdespook; Seeroogblom
IsiXhosa: Incwadi; Incotho
IsiZulu: Incwadi; Incotho ; Ibhade
Sesotho: Kxutsana-ya-naha; Leshoma
Setswana: Leshoma
IsiNdebele: Incoto
siSwati: Incumbe
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
Plant Size
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Fragrant / Aromatic These plants posses a strong, usually pleasant odour.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Boophone disticha is a very large, very poisonous bulb up to 17 cm in diameter, covered in darkly coloured thick dry scales. Much of the bulb protrudes from the ground. The grey-green wavy edged leaves are prominently arranged in a fan and usually appear after flowering. They can grow up to 60 cm in length.

The large, round flower heads, each with its own stalk, are held together on a very short, thick stem. The stalks grow a longer after flowering and the whole head, containing the fleshy seeds, breaks off at the top of the dried main stem to go tumbling across the veld in the wind, distributing the seeds as it goes. An extensive root system develops beneath the bulb.

These bulbs will grow in the veld for well over a hundred years.

The bulb of Boophone disticha is very toxic and if ingested may cause death.

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funnel-shaped, opening out with 5 long lobes with anthers held exposed above the flower on stalks attached to the central stem

  • Spring Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • pink
  • red
Growth Rate
  • Very Slow Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Interplanting Arranging and planting plants in the garden that have different blooming times and habits of growth, extending the amount of time in which the area is in flower.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North West, and north up to Uganda, in Albany Thicket, Fynbos, Grassland, Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, Nama Karoo, Savanna and Succulent Karoo habitats, in dry grassland and rocky areas

Planting Suggestions

Plant in very well-drained sandy or rocky soil in a position where is is protected from heavy frost. Ensure that the neck and part of the bulb are exposed above the ground. For container planting use a deep container (about 50 cm) and add a little bone meal to the soil mix. Grown from seed it will take 7 - 9 years to flower. Water when the leaves start to show and sparingly through summer. As soon as the leaves begin to yellow, withhold watering until the following season.

Watch out for amaryllis caterpillar (Diaphone eumela) on the developing flowerhead.

Medicinal Uses

In earlier times the thick liquid that exudes from the bulb was used as an arrow poison for smaller game. Preparations are still used in initiation rites of young males and diviners.

Despite its known toxicity and the many documented deaths from its use, Boophone disticha is commonly available at 'muthi' markets and is used for a number medicinal applications:  to treat headache, chest pain, abdominal pain, insomnia, painful joints, swelling, bruises and wounds, boils and abscesses, to stop bleeding of wounds, for rashes, burns, septic wounds and as a sedative. If exposed to the open flowers in a confined space, the eyes may become sore and a headache may accompany this, hence the common name 'sore-eye flower'.

The plants are known to be poisonous to cattle and sheep.

The bulb of Boophone disticha is very toxic and if ingested may cause death.

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Hi there, does anybody know where I can get some bulbs/plants of Boophone disticha and get them send to the Netherlands?
Greetings, Willem

Hi Willem

Click on the link for Shire Wild Bulb Nurasery on this page, or go to and contact Rob. He exports South African bulbs and has Boophane disticha on his list.

Kind regards

I bought a young plant at a succulent show a month ago. I've started to see black spots about 1/8 in. in diameter on the leaves. These spots can be flicked off with my nail with no damage to the underlying leaf. Using a magnifying glass I can't tell if the spot is an insect or not. Any ideas?

Thank you,

Hi Elizabeth

At a guess this sounds like Scale but I don't recall seeing or hearing of it on leaves of bulbs before. It is an insect and in large numbers can be destructive as it is a sap sucking creature and can multiply quite rapidly in suitable conditions. To see if this is scale, Google: 'scale on plants' and look at the images - there are many types but some are very dark brown to black. If you feel that this is scale, go to: This article will give you all the information you need for organic and non-organic control.

If I am on the wrong track, please send a close-up photo of the spots so I can attempt a further diagnosis. I would be interested to find out if this is scale, as it seems most unusual. It's quite possible that the plant was infected when you bought it.

Kind regards

what are the most favourable growth conditions for boophone disticha (l.f) amaryllidacaea

Please read through the supplied information. If this is insufficient, I suggest you Google for more information.

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