Bulbine frutescens, B. latifolia (syn. B. natalensis), and B. narcissifolia Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae (syn. Asphodelaceae)
Bulbine species are geophytic (plants that have a subterranean storage organ known as a corm), aloe-like succulent perennials with rosettes of fleshy leaves. The amount of water stored above ground (succulence) in Bulbine species, however, may be more important for survival than the amount stored in the corm (geophytism).1 The Bulbine genus includes approximately 78 species2 with a highly disjunct distribution,1 occurring almost entirely in southern Africa,1,2 but with six species in Australia.3 This article concerns the most widely used African species: B. latifolia (syn. B. natalensis), known as broad-leaved bulbine,4 and as rooiwortel (“red root”) in Afrikaans due to its red-orange corm5; B. frutescens, known as stalk-bulbine,6 burn jelly plant, cat’s tail, and snake flower7; and B. narcissifolia, known as strap-leafed bulbine and snake flower.3 While much of the literature and trade refers to B. latifolia and B. natalensis as separate species, version 1.1. of The Plant List (2013) and the updated World Flora Online treat them as synonyms.8 In this article, we use the Latin name referred to in the cited references.
Bulbine frutescens, which occurs in South Africa (in the provinces of Free State,9 Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal), Swaziland,6 and Lesotho,7 has yellow, sometimes orange, star-shaped flowers.10 Bulbine latifolia (B. natalensis) is distributed in the fynbos/dry scrub-forest ecotone (transition area between two biomes) region of South Africa5 (in Free State,9 Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape), as well as in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.4 It has yellowish fleshy roots, small yellow flowers with spreading petals, and small blackish, flattened, wind-dispersed seeds.10 Bulbine narcissifolia, which is gray-green and stemless with yellowish exudate, small bright yellow flowers, and bluish-green, flat twisted leaves,10 is widely distributed in South Africa (in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Gauteng, and Limpopo), as well as in Lesotho, Botswana, and Ethiopia.3