Eucomis autumnalis


Eucomis autumnalis : Autumn pineapple

Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Weekly Plant of Interest”. Sightings of the often semi-cryptic species are less common – rare, making it a valuable find for keen botanists or avid photographers.

Eucomis autumnalis or Autumn Pineapple Lily (known as herfspynappleblom in Afrikaans or Umbola in Sisotho), is a small  bulbous perennial of up to 60 cm that may be found growing in clumps near damp grassy montane gullies, and on stream banks. The plant has been found growing at altitudes of up to 2800 m A.S.L., and has a widespread distribution from the Eastern Cape to KZN/Mpumalanga.  The word Eucomis hails from the Latin word meaning “beautiful hair” or “topknot” (looking at the images one understands why).

The leaves are usually a dark – grass green colour with some purple mottling at the base and measure 600 X 100 mm on average. The leave margins are often wavy with a purplish – red tinge. The flower tepals are white – green or mauve. When the flowers have been fertilised they gain a green tinge. The stamens bear an unpleasant odour. A characteristic inflorescence is visible above the tepals, with large terminal bracts. The following uses have been recorded for E. autumnalis:

  • Tradition medicines to treat colic
  • Garden ornamental ( natural form or cultivar) which has been honoured with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Not many sightings of this plant have been reported from within the Clarens Village Nature Reserve and the CVC rangers have only observed E. autumnalis in 2 or 3 localities thus far.

Author: Damien Coulson