Swazi Lily

Adenium obesum swazicum

The beautiful Swazi Lily is a small succulent shrub, growing only up to around 70cm high, that occurs in a small corner of South Africa’s Lowveld, northern Kwazulu-Natal, Mozambique and eSwatini (Swaziland). Sadly the Swazi Lily is critically endangered in South Africa, with over half of its habitat converted to sugarcane fields and the plants themselves subject to illegal harvesting for traditional medicine and collection by horticulturists. Up to 20% of the total population of these plants occur in the Kruger National Park, its last remaining stronghold in this country. The Lowveld National Botanical Gardens runs programs aimed at propagating the Swazi Lily and educating the public about its conservation.

Swazi Lilies loose all their leaves in winter, with both the leaves and flowers emerging at the same time at the onset of summer. The plants grow in well-drained sodic sandy and clay soils, is exceptionally drought resistant and slow-growing. The flowers are pollinated by hawk moths and the seeds dispersed by the wind. The sap of the Swazi Lily is extremely toxic and was used to make poisoned arrows for hunting. In traditional medicine applications it has to be highly diluted to treat heart ailments and skin conditions.

The Swazi Lily is a close relative of the Impala Lily, which flowers in winter.

16 thoughts on “Swazi Lily

  1. Anne

    You have given me a clue to a mystery I have been trying to solve for a couple of years – identifying a plant which I potted after picking up a piece lying broken on a path whilst hiking in a nearby reserve … from the information you give it cannot possibly be a Swazi Lily, but I shall have to wait until it flowers again to see if it may be a relation. Most intriguing.

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