Hypoxis hemerocallidea

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Botanical Name
Hypoxis hemerocallidea
Hypoxidaceae - The star lily family.
hy-POK-sis hem-er-oh-kal-LID-ee-a
Common Name(s)
English: Star flower; Yellow stars
Afrikaans: Sterblom; Gifbol
IsiXhosa: ilabatheka
IsiZulu: inkomfe
Sesotho: Lotsane; Moli kharatsa
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
  • Ground Cover A plant with a low-growing, spreading habit, grown specifically to cover the ground.
Plant Size
  • Small to Medium
    Tree8m to 15m
    Shrub75cm to 1m
    Perennial/ground cover20cm to 40cm
    Bulb30cm to 40cm
    Succulent20cm to 40cm
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous to Semi-deciduous In warmer areas a deciduous plant may not lose its leaves during winter at all, or may lose its leaves for a very brief period, or may only lose part of its foliage.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • 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.
Specific Information

Hypoxis hemerocallidea arises from a large dark brown corm which is covered with bristly hairs.   The corm is bright yellow when freshly cut and has an unpleasant bitter taste.The strap like leaves are up to 400 mm long, arching outwards with the lower surfaces covered densely with hairs. Leaves appear above ground in spring before the flowers.The flowers are short-lived and close at midday.

Hypoxis hemerocallidea is fire-tolerant, occurring in grasslands where fires are reasonably frequent. It is dormant during the fire season and the fibres protect the corm against damage. The growth of new leaves is stimulated by the fire, as is the germination of the seeds.

Although still widespread in the wild, populations of this plant are declining in high population areas such as Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where it has been heavily harvested during the last 15 years, following the claim that it was South Africa's "miracle muthi" and effective in treating the immune system of HIV sufferers. This claim was later surrounded by controversy.

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six petaled star

  • All Year Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • 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.
  • yellow
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.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Edging A low growing plant that provides softness or definition to the edges of a bed or walkway.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • 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.
  • 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 Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo, as well as Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, on sandy hills on the margins of dune forests, in open, rocky grassland, on dry, stony, grassy slopes, and on mountain slopes and plateaus

Planting Suggestions

Hypoxis grows well in full sun in well-drained soil. As the corms will remain in place for some time, enrich the soil with a dose of compost or mulch a couple of times a year. The bulbs lose their leaves in autumn and are dormant in winter when they need to be kept dry. The leaves re-appear in late winter.

Medicinal Uses

Hypoxis hemerocallidea has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries and is possibly the best known muti plant in the country. Weak infusions and decoctions of the rootstock are used as a tonic during convalescence, to build up the immune system of patients suffering from cancer, tuberculosis and HIV, for urinary tract infections, testicular tumors, as a laxative, to expel intestinal worms, for anxiety, palpitations, depression and rheumatoid arthritis. Commercial products are now widely available.

NOTE: Hypoxis contain toxic substances in the raw form, and must be used with caution and under the care of a trained herbalist.

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Good day
Please can you tell me where I might purchase this plant?
I live in hennenman, free state and we get sometimes severe frost...is this a problem?
Thank you so much

According to my sources, this plant can cope with freezing weather as it loses its leaves in autumn and remains safely under the ground until spring. I do have stock of these bulbs for sale. Please contact me on the contact form for further information.

Hi Lorraine, I'm an anthropologist-researcher and I try to cultivate Hypoxis here (Alban Hills near Rome, Italy) andI need seeds or similar for my personal experiment an this field. Can You contact me trought e-mail (starmiles@gmail.com)? I'm very glad to meet you in this virtual but for real place.

Massimo Migliastro

Hi, im doing a research project. do you perhaps know where the extracts or healing creams made from hypoxis can be purchased?

Hi Erin

I am afraid I don't. I know there is one company in South Africa that selles creams but most suppliers are overseas. Try Googling 'buy Hypoxis extracts cream South Africa'.

Kind regards

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