Bulbinella

Bulbinella is a genus from the southern hemisphere in the Asphodelaceae family or some of the newest taxonomy suggests the Xanthorrhoeaceae family. This genus, which is closely related to Bulbine, has rhizomes. Most of the species are found in South Africa, but there are species from New Zealand as well. There are twenty three species. Fourteen species are native to the Cape Floral Province. Seeds have a short viability from 6 months to a year. Fresh seeds can germinate quite prolifically. Seeds of winter growing species should be sown in the fall.


Bulbinella barkerae grows in shale flats in renosterveld from the Bot River to Riversdale (winter rainfall South Africa). It has white flowers in a narrow cylindrical raceme. Photos taken in Napier in the Overberg by Cameron McMaster.

Bulbinella barkerae, Napier, Cameron McMasterBulbinella barkerae, Napier, Cameron McMaster

Bulbinella cauda-felis is widespread in the winter rainfall area of South Africa, growing on sandstone, granite, or clay. It flowers from August to December in the wild. White flowers with pink buds grow in a conical raceme. The 5 to 11 erect leaves are linear. The first two pictures were taken near Middelpos in the Roggeveld September 2006. The third and fourth were taken near the Biedouw Valley in September 2006 where they were growing with the yellow form of Cyanella alba. Photographs by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Bulbinella cauda-felis, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella cauda-felis, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella cauda-felis, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella cauda-felis, Bob Rutemoeller

Bulbinella ciliolata is a white flowered (pink in bud) species that is very similar to Bulbinella cauda-felis and in flower it may be confused with the narrow leaf forms of that species although the fruit and seeds are different. This species appears to be restricted to northern Namaqualand in the vicinity of Springbok and Kamieskroon where it occurs in broken veld on sandy loams of the granite hills, especially in damper depressions or by streamlets. It is never common. Photo taken by Andrew Harvie in the Kamiesberg of what he believes to be this species, mostly identified by location. It flowers in the wild from July to September.

Bulbinella ciliolata, Kamiesberg, Andrew Harvie

Bulbinella divaginata is found mostly growing in clay soils in renosterveld in Namaqualand and the western Cape and flowers March to June. It grows to 45 cm high and has filiform leaves, few at flowering and yellow flowers in a narrow cylindrical raceme.


Bulbinella eburniflora grows on clay and sand on the Bokkeveld Plateau. Growing to 75 cm high with 3 to 7 linear channeled leaves with finely toothed margins, it flowers in early spring (August-September). Flowers are in a cylindrical raceme, ivory to pale straw with a musty odor. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster September 2011 near Nieuwoudtville.

Bulbinella eburniflora, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella eburniflora, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella eburniflora, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMaster

Bulbinella elegans has yellow to white small flowers in conical racemes and narrow and channeled leaves. It grows in clay soils in karroid scrub or Renosterveld in dry areas of the South African Cape Floral province. It flowers August to September. The first photo was taken by Mary Sue Ittner August 2001 near Nieuwoudtville. The rest of the photos were taken near Middelpos in the Roggeveld September 2006 by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Bulbinella elegans, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella elegans, Middelpos, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella elegans, Middelpos, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella elegans, Middelpos, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella elegans, Middelpos, Mary Sue Ittner

Bulbinella floribunda (syn. Bulbinella robusta) is native to South Africa. The Kew Monocot Checklist provisionally accepts the species as distinct so it is listed here as such. Photos taken by Nhu Nguyen from the UC Botanical Garden in February 2009. Photo #1 shows the plant nested within an Erica species, as it may occur in habitat. Photo #2 shows the whole inflorescence and photo #3 shows the flowers closeup.

Bulbinella floribunda, Nhu NguyenBulbinella floribunda, Nhu NguyenBulbinella floribunda, Nhu Nguyen

Bulbinella latifolia is found on seasonally damp sandstone or granite, rarely dolerite from Namaqualand to the western Karoo (winter rainfall areas.) Plants grow to 1 m. There are four subspecies recognized. Photos taken below from Cameron McMaster near Nieuwoudtville are probably a combination of ssp. doleritica and ssp. latifolia.

Bulbinella latifolia, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella latifolia, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMaster

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. denticulata grows on clay flats in mountain renosterveld or karroid scrub from the cold Bokkeveld to Hex River Pass and blooms September to October. It has lemon yellow flowers. The photo below from Bob Rutemoeller was taken in a burned area near the Hex River pass September 2003. It could be this species as it was growing and flowering in the right spot at the right time, but we didn't have with us enough information to figure it out.

Bulbinella sp., Hex River, Bob Rutemoeller

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica grows in doleritic clay on the Bokkeveld Plateau and has striking orange flowers. It blooms August-September. This one is reported to be a little difficult to flower in cultivation but deep pots placed in saucers of water may help. The first picture was taken in the Nieuwoudtville Reserve in August 2001 in a very wet year by Mary Sue Ittner. The next three photos were taken by Cameron McMaster near Nieuwoudtville September 2011. The closeup in the final photo taken by Max Withers shows the intense orange of the petals (softened almost to apricot, from a distance, by combination with the prominent yellow pollen).

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica, Nieuwoudtville, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica, Nieuwoudtville, Cameron McMasterBulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica closeup, Max Withers

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. latifolia has bright yellow flowers in cylindrical racemes and blooms August to October. It grows in seeps on granite or sandstone soils in the northwest Cape from Namaqualand to Cederberg. This picture was taken by Mary Sue Ittner on a rainy day in a wet year (August 2001) in Namaqua National Park where it was growing in a very wet place. Other flowers were closed because of the weather, so it really stood out.The next three photos were taken in the Kamiesberg in 2006 by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. latifolia, Namaqualand, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella latifolia ssp. latifolia, Kamiesberg, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella latifolia ssp. latifolia, Kamiesberg, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella latifolia ssp. latifolia, Kamiesberg, Mary Sue Ittner

Bulbinella latifolia ssp. toximontana has smooth leaf margins and creamy flowers and grows on peaty seeps on sandstone in the Gifberg. It flowers July to August.


Bulbinella nutans grows in damp peaty soils and flowers July-October. Plants are to 1 meter tall with yellow or cream flowers in a conical raceme. The first two photos taken by Bob Rutemoeller September 2006 in the Komsberg. This may be subspecies nutans. The next three were taken by Cameron McMaster near Napier in the Overberg.

Bulbinella nutans, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella nutans, Bob RutemoellerBulbinella nutans, Napier, Cameron McMasterBulbinella nutans, Napier, Cameron McMasterBulbinella nutans, Napier, Cameron McMaster

Bulbinella nutans ssp. nutans has small yellow or cream flowers in a conical raceme and long tapering channelled leaves. It blooms July to October and grows in damp clay or peaty soils. The first picture was taken by Andrew Harvie in the Roggeveld Mountains. The second taken by Mary Sue Ittner in August 2001 shows plants growing next to water on the Bokkeveld Plateau. The third and fourth pictures taken August 2006 by Mary Sue Ittner and Bob Rutemoeller in Villiersdorp I believe are a creamy form of this species but appear to be pollinated with two different pollinators.

Bulbinella nutans ssp. nutans, Andrew HarvieBulbinella nutans ssp. nutans, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella nutans ssp. nutans, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella nutans ssp. nutans, Bob Rutemoeller

Bulbinella sp. This plant was blooming in the southwest Cape in September 2003 in an area that had previously been burned. We were uncertain which species it was. Photo by Bob Rutemoeller.

Bulbinella sp., Bob Rutemoeller

Bulbinella triquetra is a shorter species with filiform leaves and yellow flowers in a conical raceme. It grows on damp sand and granite and flowers in spring. The first photo by Mary Sue Ittner taken in Villiersdorp in August 2006. The next two pictures were taken by Cameron McMaster in the Overberg. Photos four and five were taken by Andrew Harvie on the Blinkberg Pass in the western Cape.

Bulbinella triquetra, Villiersdorp, Mary Sue IttnerBulbinella triquetra, Caledon, Cameron McMasterBulbinella triquetra, Napier, Cameron McMasterBulbinella triquetra, Andrew HarvieBulbinella triquetra, Andrew Harvie

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Page last modified on August 07, 2012, at 05:34 PM