Toxicity of Boophone disticha

Eugene Zielinski
Wed, 07 May 2008 19:23:32 PDT
In Wild Flowers of South Africa for the Garden (1971), Una van der Spuy
writes (concerning B. disticha) "The name of 'Sore Eye Flower' is apt,
because if one is near the open flower in a confined space, one's eyes do
become sore and one's head may begin to ache too."

Eugene Zielinski
Augusta, GA

> [Original Message]
> From: Rhoda and Cameron McMaster <>
> To: <>
> Date: 5/6/2008 3:28:12 AM
> Subject: [pbs] Toxicity of Boophone disticha
> Hi. 
> While the toxicity of Boophone pollen is being discussed I thought it
would be interesting to note that if close enough to the plant it will have
similar effects.  The well known botanical artist, Dr Auriol Batten
recounts how when painting the plant from a fresh flower, she developed a
headache, drowsiness and sore eyes.   In fact one of its common names in
South Africa is "Sore Eye Flower".   The bulb is extremely poisonous and
was used as an ingredient in the arrow and fish poison concocted by the San
and Khoi Hunter-Gatherers in past eras.  The remarkable properties of this
bulb were highlighted by the discovery by Johan Binneman of a mummified
body of a San hunter in the Kouga mountains in 1998.  As reported in the
organ of the Archaeological Society of SA, "The Digging Stick" Vol.16 No.2
in April 1999, he discovered the body in a cave carefully wrapped in the
scales of Boophone disticha bulbs.  So toxic were the bulbs scales that the
wrapping had kept the 2000 year-old
>   body in a well preserved state, protecting it from insects and flesh
eating organisms.  The mummy is now housed in the Albany Museum.
> Cameron McMaster

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