When meandering through the extensive road network or game paths on the Welgevonden Game Reserve you will find many beautiful and interesting plants, flowers and trees that all have their own unique and distinctive characteristics.
One of the the most interesting however, would have to be the bushman’s poison bulb. Often guests will stumble upon it and ask about the strange looking plant, as it indeed does stand out from the rest; almost resembling a traditional headdress or peacock feathers with its unique fan-like leaf structure sticking out from the bulb, about a foot high off the ground. During July to October it also produces a bright red to yellow flower in a ball-like structure that is pollinated by bees and other insects.
Its Latin name Boophone disticha basically translates from the Greek word ‘bous’ meaning ox and ‘phane’ meaning death. And indeed it is an extremely poisonous plant. Another common name for this plant is sore-eye flower – apparently if a person is exposed to the flowers in a confined space they will get sore eyes or a headache. Strangely enough this toxic plant was used by traditional healers or sangomas for medicinal reasons. The dry outer layer of the bulb was used to treat boils and abscesses, and the fresh leaves to treat bleeding lesions. Traditional people feared this plant and only the sangomas in the tribe handled the poison, but the bushman did use the toxin to make poison tipped arrows that were used to bring down large game such as Eland with a single arrow.
The bushman also saw this plant as a ‘gateway to the afterlife’ and would place it upon the graves of their fellow tribesmen. Sangomas would use it to induce visions of the ancestors and to get rid of bad spirits by making a person ingest the bulb and stare at a blank surface. Once visions were seen of the ancestors, the sangoma would make the person purge the toxic bulb, thus ‘purging the bad spirits’.
So next time you visit Mhondoro Safari Lodge and Villa do keep an eye out for this interesting plant!