Flower Tales: Poison Bulb

By Kings Camp Team on April 11, 2023

This marks the third post of our monthly flower-themed inserts by Karolina Lasse, one of our guides at Kings Camp.

If plants could kill…

If you’ve ever been in any doubt as to whether plants can kill, read this and I will show you that they most definitely can!

At first glance, the poison bulb (Boophone disticha) is not much to look at. Although the leaves form a pleasing fan shape, the plant is easily overlooked, but this changes as soon as its beautiful red flowers bloom…

But what lurks below the surface? Well, beware, because at least 11 alkaloids have been isolated in this plant, which have known neurotoxic and analgesic effects on human beings.

That said, this plant has its uses too. Weak and/or dry decoctions are used for antiseptic and pain-relieving dressings after circumcision or for painful joints, swelling, and bruises.

The poison bulb has a long history throughout Africa. It has a reputation for being a powerful hallucinogen and was used by the San peoples to poison the tips of their arrows, making them feared by their enemies.

Sangomas (traditional healers) administer it to their patients in order to receive messages from the future and the past. To do this, patients sit in front of a white cloth to receive the visions clearly.

It has also been used for mummification: A 2 000-year-old mummy was discovered in the Eastern Cape, mummified in a thick layer of Boophone bulbs.

Despite its known danger to humans, poison bulb is still freely available in traditional urban markets.

It is easily overdosed and has been fatal to many. It should always be used with extreme caution.

Image sources:

– Karolina Lasse


About Kings Camp

Kings Camp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa, is an exclusive safari lodge offering guests a unique African safari experience.

Located in the heart of Big 5 game country, the lodge spreads out beneath a canopy of ancient trees and offers guests a peaceful and serene atmosphere in which to reconnect with nature.

Guests can enjoy all-inclusive luxury accommodation as well as thrilling game drives in open vehicles which offer special access to encounter some of Africa’s most beloved wildlife. Additionally, there are various activities available throughout the day such as guided bush walks and bird watching tours to discover even more wonders that this captivating landscape has to offer. All of this creates an unforgettable adventure for any guest looking to connect with Mother Nature in one of its most extraordinary settings.

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