Common name: Blue squill
Merwilla plumbea (also called Scillia natalensis) is a graceful perennial bulb with tall plumes of blue flowers in spring. And what a sight. Violet-blue or pale blue star-shaped flowers on a delicate stalk 1 m/3 ft tall. Bees in the flowers all day. Flowers with a honey-like scent in late afternoon. A basal rosette of broad, grey-green leaves.
But a warning. This ethereal perennial that seems to be floating in air has a bulb that should be planted with extreme caution. In raw form it is toxic to humans and animals and can be fatal if any part of it is ingested. Besides that, it is an easy plant to grow as long as you remember two things - well-drained soil is key and keeping it in the same place, never moving it.
Blue squill is used medicinally in South Africa and is one of the most traded plants for traditional medicine when prepared correctly. And because of its popularity, it has now become vulnerable in the wild.
A native to South Africa, this hardy plant grows in the grasslands and rocky outcrops of the Natal Midlands. You will find our blue squill in bed 58B in the Southern Hemisphere Garden. The pictures were taken in spring.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones