African potato

African potato
Plant Botanical Name: 
Hypoxis hemerocallidea
USBG Plant Location: 
Conservatory Room Location: 
Medicinal Plants

A tuberous perennial found in the grasslands of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The beautiful yellow flowers appear throughout the spring and summer, but are short lived and close at midday. The underground 'potato' is acually a corm, not a tuber, but is somewhat similar to a sweet potato. This misleading common name comes from the Afrikaan's "Afrika-patat," patat being Dutch for potato.

This plant is dependent on naturally occuring fires, which promote the growth of new leaves and production of seed. Traditionally the leaves were used to make rope and the corm used to make black dye. The plant has also had historic use in traditional medicine and is being studied for use to treat arthritis, certain cancers and urinary infections.

It is an excellent rock garden plant for full sun and well-drained locations. Although not Red Listed by IUCN, it is of conservation concern due to over harvesting and suppression of the needed natural fires.