Plant of the century, the poisonous beauty


The Boophone disticha cactus is a fascinating plant native to some areas of South Africa, the central zone, actually native to Angola. Named after the Greek words "bos" meaning "ox" and "phone" meaning "death" in reference to the poisonous properties of the bulb. '

Also known by names like: bushman poison bulb, candelabra flower, century plant, sore eye flower, windball, fireball, kaffir onion, red nosegay, tumbleweed.

They are found where there is winter precipitation and where there is summer precipitation, or also where it rains all year round.
It grows in Africa as far as Namibia, Botswana and through Zimbabwe it reaches East Africa.

It is a very variable species in terms of its growth, flowering, size and the appearance of its leaves. Most grow with roots underground and the top exposed.

The plant can survive fires in the area where it is cultivated, in addition Seeds germinate more quickly if they fall on recently burned soil.

Disticha Boophone Care


This striking plant has a beautiful and dramatic appearance, but it should be handled with caution, as it is poisonous to animals and humans. It is an easy cactus to care for, especially compared to other types of cacti.


The length of the leaves can be more or less than 10 cm and lreach up to 27 cm, they are arranged in a fan, are wavy and have great appeal. They appear after flowering, which occurs in spring. even if you don't get water in the winter.

They have short stems, beautiful flowers that vary in shades from pink to red and have a heady, sweet aroma from July to October. It is a slow-growing succulent that can reach up to 91 cm in height and has a spread of 61 cm. The leaves are leathery, erect and can measure up to 20 cm in length.

cactus flowers


It usually blooms in the summer months, producing clusters of white or pink flowers. These flowers are sweetly scented and relatively ephemeral, usually lasting only a few days or a week.

To promote flowering, it is important to provide the plant with plenty of light and water. The flowers are followed by oblong reddish-brown fruits, which are also toxic due to their alkaloid content.

The flowers are rounded and measure approximately 15 cm wide, made up of numerous small flowers on a central, robust stem that bloom in spring. Then the flower buds dry and we notice them rolling in the wind a few months later.

They attract bees and flies that pollinate the flowers and also receive several species of ants.


They need bright, indirect light and prefer temperatures of 20 to 30ºC. It tolerates drought, but does not like frost, it thrives in full sun.

Soil and irrigation


It grows in dry grasslands and on rocky slopes. To ensure proper drainage, plant these cacti in well-drained soil. Irrigation should only be done when the top 2,5 to 5 cm of soil is dry. Excessive watering, especially in winter, can cause the roots to rot and the plant to die.

It is usually an evergreen, but must be kept dry during inactivity, Otherwise the bulbs may wither and rot. In winter he needs absolute rest.


Boophone disticha does not require regular fertilization and can be transplanted every two years. It is best to regularly check the plant for pests such as mealybugs, scale or aphids.

These cacti usually bloom in the summer months, producing clusters of white or pink flowers, sweetly scented and short-lived.
To plant it in the garden you need temperate and warm climates, the place must be very sunny. In countries where there are very cold winter climates, it is best to grow them in greenhouses or containers.

Diseases and pests

One of the most common Boophone problems It is root rot, as a result of excessive watering.

Other potential pests include leaf spot, scale, and the mites. These diseases and pests can be treated with a fungicide or an insecticide, respectively.

The bulbs and mainly the bases of the leaves are very susceptible to attack by mealybugs. The leaf margins are chewed by beetles and attacked by slugs overnight.

Boophone disticha poisoning


The Boophone disticha cactus is highly toxic to animals and people. Its root bulbs contain alkaloids that can cause serious symptoms if ingested.

Among the alkaloids contained in the bulb, it includes bufanamine, which is very strong and inhibits salivary secretion and paralyzes the vagal endings in the heart, therefore causing death due to respiratory failure.

Signs of poisoning in animals may include salivation, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, colic, bloating, and a weak or rapid pulse. In the most severe cases, this poisoning can lead to organ failure or death.

If it is suspected that an animal has ingested the cactus, it is important to contact a veterinarian immediately. In humans, symptoms can include skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and organ failure.

It is also known as sore eye flower, because exposure to open flowers in a small or closed space It can cause eye pain and also headache.

Uses of the Disticha Boophone

Although it is poisonous to cattle and sheep, it was widely used by the Bushmen to put poison in their arrows.

It also had medicinal purposes, which is why traditional healers use it. to treat pain and wounds, the outer covering of the bulb is applied in abscesses and boils, and fresh leaves to stop bleeding in wounds.

Finally, the Boophone disticha cactus is a unique, beautiful, but potentially dangerous plant. It is essential to take proper precautions when caring for and handle this cactus, as it is poisonous to animals and people.

With proper care and maintenance, these cacti can be a stunning addition to any succulent garden. Be sure to take note of potential diseases and pests and check the plant regularly to ensure its health and well-being.

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