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Merwilla plumbea. Wikimedia
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Merwilla plumbea
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Merwilla plumbea

Merwilla plumbea is a variable species of the Asparagaceae family and is native to southern Africa

Denise Bush

Malaga

Friday, 10 May 2024, 14:01

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Merwilla plumbea is a variable species of the Asparagaceae family (previously Hyacinthaceae) and is native to southern Africa. It is a large bulb, up to 15cm in diameter, which has papery brown or purple scales.

Its common names include wild squill and blue mountain lily. The broad tapering leaves are attractive in their own right as they have marked veining and sometimes purplish margins or undersides. The inflorescence is an elegant plume of pale blue, violet-blue or blue and white star-shaped flowers which exude a honey scent in the early evening. There is also a white form but it is not easily available. The flowers, which attract bees and butterflies, form on tall stems up to a metre high and will develop before the leaves or at the same time as the leaves, in mid-spring, early summer. Merwilla plumbea is deciduous and the leaves will die back in the winter.

It is moderately drought-resistant but will flower profusely if watered regularly during the summer. As soon as the leaves begin to turn yellow, watering should stop.

It is an ideal addition for a mixed border or as a container plant and will thrive in full sun.

After flowering , the papery seed capsules will split open and the seed, which is irregularly shaped and wrinkly, is dispersed by the wind. The seed is only viable for a few months unless kept in the refrigerator. Propagation is best carried out by removing the offsets that form on the main bulb as seed grown plants can take between four and seven years to flower.

Merwilla is toxic to all mammals if ingested however the bulb is used in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of ailments such as sprains, fractures, boils and wounds with poultices applied externally. Powdered bulbs are rubbed into the skin to resist witchcraft. It is also used in enemas to increase female fertility, male potency and libido. A decoction of the root is used as a laxative and for internal tumours.

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