Agapanthus africanus, National Botanical Garden, Kirstenbosch, South Africa
The Agapanthus occurs naturally only in southern Africa, where it grows in the wild in all our provinces except the Northern Cape, as well as in Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. The name agapanthus comes from the Greek words agapé (love) and anthos (flower), therefore literally meaning “flower of love”. Locally it is often referred to as blue lily, isicakathi (Xhosa) and ubani (Zulu), while in Europe and America it is popularly known as the African lily. The Agapanthus is used in many traditional rituals and remedies in southern Africa. Xhosa women make a necklace from the roots of the plant to ensure healthy, strong babies, the Zulu use the plant to treat heart disease and paralysis, and it is said to revive the tired and swollen feet of hikers who wrap their feet in the leaves for half an hour. In fact, scientific studies have revealed that agapanthus does contain several chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. Agapanthus produce large clusters (known as umbrels) of funnel-shaped flowers at the end of a tall stem. The colour of Agapanthus flowers range from the well-known blue-purple hues to white, and even pink varieties, and the plants range in height from just 20cm for certain dwarf varieties to up to 2m for larger varieties.