Bushman’s Poison Bulb

The Bushman’s Poison Bulb, (Amaryllis districha Linne 1782 or Buphane districhia), flowers beautiful clusters of reddish/pink flowers for about a week and a bit just before the first rains every spring – round about the end of September till the middle of October. When not in flower, it sprouts several long leaves that form a fan formation off the bulb and have a spiraling formation to collect the moisture to bring to the core. It grows to a height of about 50 centimeters on mix or grit soils, needing maximum water. Baboons are seen frequently uprooting these plants and peeling back the layers for consumption.

In the case of human use, the plant is not edible, but the inside of the bulb can be prepared as a poison. The Pedi people of South Africa are experts at preparing this poison. When done correctly it can be put in food or drink over a short period of time killing the person slowly in what looks like a heart attack. The Chief of a Pedi village would have food testers for just such reasons. The Pedi people build their villages around this plant as they use it as a communication tool to the spiritual world. (Bushman’s Poison Bulb is seen as a sacred specimen similar to how Bushman revered Eland.) The plant will have a center meeting place built around it and people are seen approaching the area and offering a gift of tobacco or drink before they communicate with their ancestors.

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – Kapama River Lodge Ranger