Agapanthus comptonii F.M.Leight.
Agapanthus giganteus auct.
Agapanthus longispathus F.M.Leight.
Agapanthus medius Lodd. ex Steud.
Agapanthus multiflorus Willd.
Agapanthus orientalis F.M.Leight.
Agapanthus umbellatus maximus Lindl.
Agapanthus umbellatus minimus Lindl.
Agapanthus variegatus Steud.
Tulbaghia praecox (Willd.) Kuntze
Common Name: African Lily
Cultivated plants, grown as an edging along a path
Photograph by: C T Johansson
African lily is an evergreen perennial plant, producing a rosette of leaves about 50cm high from an underground bulb.
The plant is sometimes gathered from the wild for local medicinal use.
Agapanthus is suspected of causing haemolytic poisoning in humans, and the sap causes severe ulceration of the mouth[
Southern Africa - western and eastern Cape.
Stony slopes of rocky grasslands[
A plant mainly of the subtropics, in the tropics it grows best at higher elevations[
Succeeds in most soils[
] but it prefers a light very well-drained porous soil with plenty of leaf-mould[
]. Requires plenty of moisture during the growing season but it needs to be kept dry in the winter[
]. Another report says that it is drought resistant once established[
]. It only flowers freely if it is in a very sunny position[
]. Plants succeed in maritime gardens[
]. The rhizomes are best planted only just below soil level - a mulch of gravel or stone chips will help to keep the crown of the plant free from excess moisture[
Plants flower more freely in nature in the year following a bush fire[
Hybridizes very freely with other members of this genus - some botanists say there is only one very variable species of Agapanthus[
Plants respond very well to division, usually flowering very freely in the year after division[
]. It is recommended that plants are divided about every 4 years[
Plants are usually pest and disease-free, although Agapanthus species in general are famous for harbouring snails amongst their foliage. These snails do not usually cause any damage to the plants themselves but go to neighbouring plants for food[
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
The flowering stems lean towards the sun[
]. This report is for the sub-species minimus. No further details are available, but some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity.
The plant is often used in traditional medicines[
]. Xhosa women use the roots to make antenatal medicine, and they make a necklace using the roots that they wear as a charm to bring healthy, strong babies. The Zulu use agapanthus to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, chest pains and tightness. It is also used with other plants in various medicines taken during pregnancy to ensure healthy children, or to augment or induce labour. It is also used as a love charm and by people afraid of thunderstorms, and to ward off thunder. Margaret Roberts advises hikers to put leaves in their shoes to soothe the feet, and to wrap weary feet in the leaves for half an hour. The long, strap-like leaves also make an excellent bandage to hold a dressing or poultice in place, and winding leaves around the wrists are said to help bring a fever down. Agapanthus contains several saponins and sapogenins that generally have anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling and inflammation), anti-oedema (oedema = swelling due to accumulation of fluid), antitussive (relieve or suppress coughing) and immunoregulatory (have influence on the immune system) properties. Although the precise activity of agapanthus compounds is not known, preliminary tests have shown uterotonic activity (increases the tone of uterine muscles).
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe[
]. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 18°c[
], do not sow it too thickly so that it is possible to grow the seedlings on in their pot without disturbing them for their first year of growth. Give occasional liquid feeds to make sure they do not become nutrient deficient. Divide the seedlings up into individual pots in the spring following germination, grow them on for a further year and then plant them out into their permanent positions. Seedlings take 2 - 3 years to flower[
Division of offsets.
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