Derivation of specific name
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Boophone disticha
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Boophone disticha
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Boophone disticha is a poisonous bulbous tropical and subtropical flowering plant, endemic to Africa. Its common names are gifbol, tumbleweed, veld fan, and windball. The type specimen was collected in 1781 from South Africa by Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg and described by Linnaeus as Amaryllis disticha. Since that time it has been placed in the genera Brunsvigia and Haemanthus, finally coming to rest as Boophone. The genus itself was written in three ways (Boophone, Boophane and Buphane) by the author William Herbert, straining the procedures of the rules of nomenclature. The etymology of the genus is from the Greek 'bous' = ox, and 'phontes'= killer of, a clear warning that eating the plant is fatal to stock.
The genus as understood at the moment, includes two or possibly three species. B. disticha is one of the most widely distributed bulbous species in South Africa, readily identified by its fan-like appearance and its bulb half-protruding from the ground. The Hottentots, Bushmen and Bantu were aware of its poisonous nature and used parts of the plant medicinally and as an arrow poison. The principal compounds are eugenol - an aromatic, volatile oil smelling of cloves and having analgesic properties, and the toxic alkaloids buphandrin, crinamidine and buphanine, the latter having an effect akin to that of scopolamine and if taken in quantity may lead to agitation, stupor, strong hallucinations and (if over-ingested) coma.
This species produces a single inflorescence before the arrival of the season's new leaves. While maturing the fruiting head's pedicels undergo a stiffening process and remarkable elongation to some 300mm. When the fruiting head separates at its junction with the stalk, it is easily moved by light breezes, scattering seeds as it rolls.
Native distribution and habitat
Boophone disticha is native to Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa (in the provinces of Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Western Cape), Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It grows wild in dry savannas, grasslands and the South African Veld.
There have been unsubstantiated reports of Boophone disticha being consumed recreationally, specifically among them Maasai of southern Kenya and Tanzania, making use of its strongly hallucinogenic properties when taken in relatively small doses.
- Under its treatment as Boophone disticha (from its basionym Amaryllis disticha) this plant name was first published in Botanical Magazine 52: sub t. 2578. 1825. GRIN (May 22, 1997). "Boophone disticha information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
synonym: Amaryllis disticha L.f. (basionym)
- Amaryllis disticha, the basionym of Boophone disticha, was originally described and published in Supplementum Plantarum 195. 1781. "Name - !Amaryllis disticha L.f.". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
- Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten and Petra Ballings (2002 onwards). "Species information: Boophone disticha". Flora of Zimbabwe. Retrieved November 10, 2011. Check date values in:
- Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa - John Mitchell Watt, Maria Gerdina Breyer-Brandwijk (1962)
- James A. Duke. "Boophone disticha (LILIACEAE)". Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
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