Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Boophone disticha (L.f.) Herb.

Large bulbs, to 18cm in diameter, the scape bearing 100 or more pink to purple-red, fragrant flowers in a dense umbel, to 30cm across, in summer to autumn, followed by a fan of erect leaves to 45cm long in 2 rows.  To 50cm.  [RHSD, CECB]. 


Horticultural & Botanical History

First botanically described by Linnaeus in 1762 as Haemanthus ciliaris [Sp. Pl. ed.2, p.413/1762] and as Amaryllis disticha by Linnaeus fils in 1782 [Suppl. Pl. p195/1782]. William Herbert proposed its inclusion in Buphane (Boophone) as Boophone disticha, the name by which it is known today [BM t.2578/1825].

Introduced to Britain in 1823.  [JD].  ‘Bulbs of this species were imported by Mr. Tate, a few years ago, as big as a man’s head’.  [Herbert].  

‘The scape comes before the leaves and bears from 100 – 250 flowers which form pink stars with 6 narrow divisions shorter than the 6 stamens.  The flower stalks are club-shaped and bear at the summit of a triangular ovary.  The coats of the bulbs are brown.  The leaves are glaucous, both blunt and acute and either wavy or straight’.  [Gard. Chron. 1859]. 

The distinction between Boophone disticha and B. toxicaria may relate largely to flower colour.  ‘Plants of this fine species have been pretty common in our collections for fifty years past; but it is believed that not more than one or two have blossomed during that period.  In the magnificent gardens of Schoenbrunn, near Vienna where the cultivation of the Cape Liliaceae has been carried on upon a larger scale and with more success than in any other, no plant of this species has ever been known to flower. […] The bulb of our sample was presented to H. R. H. Prince Leopold of Cobourg, with many others, by Mr. Burchell […] and flowered in May last in the hothouse at Claremont, where it ripened its fruit in July. […] Introduced from the Cape of Good Hope by Mr. Masson in 1774.’  Its roots were reportedly used by the Bushmen of South Africa to make poison for their arrows, mixed with other ingredients, including snake venom.  [BR f.567/1821].  FS f.434/1849. 

The plant figured by Jacquin as Haemanthus toxicarius appears to be Crossyne flava.  [Jacq. tab.39 & tab.41/1809].


History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.54/1843], but we have no more precise date for its introduction. 



Published Jan 15, 2009 - 01:43 PM | Last updated Jun 20, 2012 - 04:56 PM

The image shows a robust scape with numerous pale pink flowers.  Botanical Register f.567, 1821.

Boophone disticha (L.f.) Herb. | BR f.567/1821 | BHL


Family Amaryllidaceae
Region of origin

Widely spread in Africa but Macarthur’s plants were probably from South Africa.

  • Boophone intermedia M.Roem.
  • Boophone longipedicellata Pax
  • Boophone toxicaria (L.F. ex Aiton) Herb.
  • Amaryllis disticha L.f.
  • Amaryllis toxicaria (L.f ex Aiton) D.Dietr.
  • Brunsvigia ciliaris (L.) Ker Gawl.
  • Brunsvigia disticha (L.F.) Sweet
  • Brunsvigia rautanenii Baker
  • Brunsvigia toxicaria (L.f ex Aiton) Ker-Gawl.
  • Haemanthus ciliaris L.
  • Haemanthus distichus (L.f.) L.f. ex Savage
  • Haemanthus lemairii De Wild.
  • Haemanthus robustus Pax
  • Haemanthus sinuatus Schult. & Schult.f.
  • Haemanthus toxicarius L.f. ex Aiton


Common Name

Cape poison bulb

Name in the Camden Park Record

Buphane disticha 


Confidence level high