Cadaba aphylla

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Botanical Name
Cadaba aphylla
Capparaceae -

The caper family

ka-DAH-buh a-FIL-uh
Common Name(s)
English: Black Storm; Desert Spray; Leafless Cadaba; Leafless Worm Bush
Afrikaans: Bloustam ; Bobbejaanarm ; Doubos ; Douwurmbos ; Gifhoutjie ; Rooistorm ; Rooistormbos ; Stormbos; Swartstorm ; Swartstormbos
IsiXhosa: Usitorhom
Setswana: Mfitshwana ; Mhitshwana ; Monnamontsho
Tshivenda: Mudiatsiwana ; Tshikuni
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Plant Size
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Hardy The plant can withstand freezing temperatures or frost without artificial protection.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

Cadaba aphylla is a many-branched, leafless shrub, small tree or tangled bush. The dark green, cylindrical stems are somewhat weak and semi-succulent when young, often with a purple bloom. Older stems become rigid with tips being somewhat spiny. Leaves are only found on seedlings and some very young branches. Growth habit is straggly and the plant is often seen scrambling into other shrubs that surround it. The 9 cm long, green fruits with sticky hairs curl inwards as they dry to a rusty brown colour. The seeds are surrounded by a sticky pulp.

Although tangled and untidy, this tough shrub is able to stand great heat and frost and has potential for use in dry or arid gardens, perhaps as a background filler or part of a border where it is hardly seen for most of the year but comes into its own when in flower.

Ad Break

flowers, invariably red, consist of a calyx, ovary, and long, red, protruding stamens, without petals, in flat heads on short stems

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • red
Growth Rate
  • 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
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Border A strip of ground, at the edge of a driveway or path in which ornamental plants or shrubs are planted.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • 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 Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West provinces, north to Namibia and tropical Africa, in arid summer rainfall areas, along seasonal streams, on flats and mountain slopes and in dry ravines

Planting Suggestions

Cadaba aphylla​ will flower best in full sun. It grows in most soils but must have good drainage. It can be propagated from seed but care must be taken when transplanting as the roots are very senitive - transplant while seedlings are quite small. Root cuttings from large plants can also be used. Too much water will discourage flower production.

Medicinal Uses

The roots of Cadaba aphylla are said to be poisonous but this has not been proved. In traditional medicine the moistened, powdered plant is used as a poultice to draw boils and abscesses. The root is a violent purgative and only small doses are prescribed for this purpose. Small doses are also reportedly used as a tonic. It is said that burning wood from this plant will cause the wind to blow. 

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An Ottaqwa herbalist told me last week that his people use it to dispel or exorcise negative introjects

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