Odd isn’t it … there are so many objections to various perceptions of relationships and gender in today’s society, yet no-one has given a thought to the much maligned – butt of many jokes – general name for the Sanseviera plants: mother-in-law’s tongue!

Let us leave that to the activists and focus on these tough plants that are true survivors of the drought. I think the plants in my garden are Sansevieria hyacinthoides as they look very similar to the plants I have seen growing in the shade of trees in the Addo Elephant National Park, and which are common all over the eastern part of South Africa.

Blooming in the natural thicket at Spekboom Hide in the Addo Elephant National Park

According to, the genus Sansevieria is named after Pietro Sanseverino (1724-1771), Prince of Bisignano, who grew these plants, among other rare and exotic specimens, in his garden near Naples. Further information found at reveals that the discoverer of this plant, Vincenzo Petanga, wanted this plant named after Pietro Antonio Sansevierino, but Carl Thunberg named it after Raimondo di Sangro (1710-1771) an Italian nobleman, inventor, soldier, writer and scientist. The mystery of plant naming continues.

The specific name hyacinthoides means resembling a hyacinth – referring to the large creamy-white flowers with their recurved, thread-like flower segments.

In my garden

What is most striking about these plants are their long, linear leaves, often mottled with light green contrasting horizontal markings. Their flowers do not last for very long. It is nonetheless interesting watching them develop. The following pictures were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park:

Still green and tightly bound


Opening up



When we first settled in the Eastern Cape we were struck by the beautiful yellow flowers that bloomed next to the roads and which covered many of the hills in the area. We soon discovered that they are called bitou (or tickberry), a plant I hadn’t come across before. I remain in awe of their massed beauty nearly three decades later.

I have since discovered that it is an indigenous pioneer plant that grows up to about 2 metres tall very quickly – we had two growing in our garden for about ten years, probably from seeds dropped by passing birds. During that time I noticed how thick the stems grew and that the fleshy branches became woody as the plant matured. The best thing about these ‘drop-in’ bushes was that they appeared to be drought-resistant so were always covered with leaves and the clusters of yellow, daisy-like flowers provided a show of bright colour even when the rest of the garden had shrivelled to nothing.

The flowers are particularly beautiful during late autumn and into winter. They attract bees, butterflies and several other insects as well as birds – the latter when the fruits ripen. I am hoping to find more growing in my garden in time to come.


Newly greened grass stretched either side of the road I was travelling along – a glorious sight after such a long period of shades of brown. When my attention was drawn to a small splash of red – I had to stop for a closer look.

The long bracts of hooded-shaped flowers and the fan of sword-shaped leaves immediately identified it as one of our indigenous Gladiolus species. As I neared it, I was assailed by the memory of swathes of these plants growing in a patch of garden on the farm where I grew up. My mother used to collect bulbs from around the farm to plant in the garden – for which there was never enough water – and over the years these multiplied to provide a glorious show of flowers. This is the Gladiolus dalenii, also known as the Parrot Gladiolus or – a name I am unfamiliar with – the Natal Lily.

Although this was the only specimen I could see in the area, this plant generally thrives in grasslands throughout the eastern parts of South Africa.


What does this flower look like to you? I have seen examples of it elsewhere too far away to photograph so ‘nabbed’ this one recently – certain that I would at last find out its identity. I have looked through my collection of volumes on indigenous flowers to no avail; I have scanned Google Images to no avail – yet this is such a familiar looking flower!

Granted, this specimen was growing next to the road near a place where I have seen garden rubbish dumped before. Evening primroses are not indigenous to South Africa – and I doubt if I have ever knowingly seen one – but are the only flowers I can find so far that match the size, shape and general look of this plant.

Put your sleuthing hats on and help to satisfy my curiosity. If you know what it is, please let me know.


These indigenous Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) are grown in gardens all over South Africa, providing a riot of colour during the late winter months. All gardens except for mine that is! Somehow, neither the many packets of purchased seeds, nor handfuls of collected seed have ever found favour here – until the first sprinkling of rain at the end of September this year.

I see these flower seeds are now marketed under the umbrella name of African Daisies, which I think is a misnomer – there are so many ‘African’ daisies to choose from. Interestingly enough, the name ‘Daisy’ originates from the ancient Saxon term ‘Day’s eye’ referring to its habit of  opening during the day to show its ‘eye’ and then closing at night – or when the sun is not shining. As you can imagine, these Namaqualand Daisies look their best in the full sunshine.