Snake Charms

One of my all time favourite indigenous plants, and also very popular with landscapers in Durban, is the Wild Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea or Isihaqa).  It grows in clumps of grey-green, strappy leaves that smell strongly of garlic when bruised or, in fact, even when watered.  Beautiful purple flowers appear at the end of stalks throughout summer, and look particularly impressive when grouped together.

A hardy, drought-resistant plant, wild garlic requires little attention once settled in your garden.  The flowers form seed-pods which are very easy to propagate and wild garlic will self-seed itself if left to its own devices.  As the plant grows, larger clumps can also be divided to form new plants.

This plant is also extensively used in traditional medicine – to treat asthma, rheumatism, colds and tuberculosis.  In permaculture, wild garlic is planted among vegetable crops to keep pests away, in particular aphids, and the young leaves can also be eaten as a type of spinach.  In rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal, wild garlic is planted around homesteads to protect them from snakes.  Lastly, and I have no proof that this works, the root of the plant can be used as a love charm by men to attract girls.

What an amazing and useful plant!

Wild Garlic flower.
Wild Garlic flower.

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