Teucrium africanum

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Botanical Name
Teucrium africanum
Lamiaceae - The mint and salvia family
TEW-kree-um af-ri-KAHN-um
Common Name(s)
Afrikaans: Aambeibossie; Bitterbossie; Katjiedrieblaar; Paddaklou
IsiXhosa: ubuhlungu benyushu; ubuhlungu bebhokhw
Plant Group
  • Shrub A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
  • Veld Flower Small veld flowers of interest, rather than for their usefulness in the garden. Some of these plants have garden potential, particularly for less formal garden situations.
Plant Size
  • Very Small
    Tree3m to 4m
    Shrub25cm to 50cm
    Perennial/ground coverUp to 10cm
    Bulb10cm to 20cm
    SucculentUp to 5cm
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • 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 to semi-deciduous The plant is evergreen in warmer, wetter parts of the country, but may lose some of its leaves during winter in colder, drier situations.
  • 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

An erect sub-shrub, much branched and can be densely leafy . The leaves are deeply fissured and attractive. I find the unusual, tiny white flowers amongst the green foliage very pretty and delicate. This is a very unassuming little veld plant that I have used in the garden this year. Very useful for a filler. I have yet to see if it will become invasive after seeding! I have assumed that this plant is frost hardy as it is reported as growing in areas such as Graaff Reinet and Queenstown.

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tubular, ending in a five lobed petal with styles and anthers hanging over the petal from above

  • Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • white
Growth Rate
  • Fast 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Western and Eastern Cape Provinces of South Africa

Two other species are found in South Africa and are known by the same common names:

Teucrium trifidum:  found in all provinces except the Northern Cape

Teucrium kraussii:  found in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

All three species look very similar.

Planting Suggestions

Plant seed in autumn or spring in moist soil in a seed tray, or straight into the ground. Remove tips from plants when they are 12 to 15 cm tall and every week or two for a while thereafter to encourage bushing. Water moderately until well established, after which they can be considered water wise. Add some compost for optimum growth and mulch to retain moisture. Trim lightly after seeding is finished.


Medicinal Uses

A leaf decoction is used to treat anthrax and gall sickness in cattle and goats, as well as for goats with bloat. A hot infusion of the herb is used for snake bite.  It is also used as a tonic and for a sore throat. A leaf paste is applied for toothache. 

Teucrium africanum, Teucrium trifidum and Teucrium kraussii are used medicinally - see the comment by Jacques below.

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Also grows wild here in the Groot Marico- used by the Setswana as medicine for an upset stomach or nausea. We use the plant to make a tincture with mampoer and we drink 5 drops everyday for general health and as a bitter. A small piece of leaf will immediately get the saliva flowing when mouth is dry or when very thirsty. It grows mostly on termataria (termite colonies) around here and Antoinette and oom Johannes also calls it Bitterbos and she prescribes it for period pains and also for women who is going through their change of life. Mostly we make a tincture that comprises of Sutherlandia frutesence (Cancer bush) and Katjiedrieblaar together as they work very much the same. Oom Johannes also refers to an older name for Teucrium africanum as "Aambeibos" as it also works very well as a tea to relieve the symptoms of piles by contracting it. A very powerful medicine and one that keeps you very healthy because the uptake of food is always optimum in the presence of bitters.

Hi Jacques
Many thanks for your very useful contribution. It is seldom that I can find such specific explanations of exactly how to use medicinal plants. I shall definitely make use of some of your suggestions. If you know the Setswana name for this plant, please let me have it so I can add it to my list of names.

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