Also known as bulbine, several varieties of Bulbinella Frutescens exist, some with long, thin racing green leaves, and some having a more yellowish leaf. The most common one is the yellow-flowered plant which looks a bit like a garlic chive but has round succulent leaves and grows to about 150mm (6ins)This is the bulbinella most commonly used as herb garden plants in many gardens as well as in rockeries.
Bulbinella has long been considered the pharmocopeia plant of the herbal world; the fleshy leaves yield a jelly like sap that has multiple virtues and applications – as you will see under the ‘usage’ section. Bushmen and iron age dwellers of Southern Africa knew and understood its virtues. It has long been a part of the traditional healers arsenal.
1. Medicinal Usage – Express some sap from a leaf to get immediate relief from:
- Fever blisters
- Itchy spots
- Cracked skin
- Cracked lips
- Cold sores
- Mouth ulcers
- Sores and rashes on domestic and farm animals
- Painful insect stings
2. Aesthetic Usage
Although referred to as herb garden plants, bulbinella is also regarded as a valuable landscaping plant for its reliable growth pattern and bright all year round colour. Drought and pollution resistant, it is almost impervious to frost.
3. Cosmetic Usage
Just like the better known and much vaunted Aloe Vera, extracts of bulbinella sap can be used as a basis for skin creams.
Bulbinella is a gardeners dream; simply split a bunch and replant without missing a beat. Wind resistant, drought tolerant and a prodigious grower – bulbinella is all this and more. Equally responsive to landscapers filling those awkward spots where nothing else can thrive and to apartment window sills, bulbinella responds well to light composting and regular watering and will reward the diligent gardener with hosts of flowers.
Propagation is so easy that I feel guilty about including a sub-heading on the subject. Split a bunch of bulbinella and plant out or break off a leaf and plant. How about that.
Help yourself whenever you want but stop short of denuding the plant.
Pete Steel has grown herbs for 25 years in several different climates and soils.