Pineapple flower - The Eucomis Autumnalis

This is a particularly unusual looking plant that is part of the Hyacinthaceae family. It is one of 12 eucomis species. There are three Eucomis autumnalis subspecies, which are distinguished by the structure of their inflorescence and are found throughout South Africa.

Did you know? The pineapple flower, pineapple lily, wildepynappel and krulkoppie are all names by which the Eucomis autumnalis is also known.

The Eucomis autumnalis is a magnificent plant that is characterised by its extraordinary floral arrangement. This deciduous bulb has wavy leaves that are soft and fleshy.

The inflorescence (or flower cluster) is an arrangement of densely packed stalked flowers, which forms one large cluster that resembles a single flower in its own rights. This inflorescence is green-yellow and can consist of well over 100 little flowers. With these clusters, the plant reaches a height of about 50 to 60 centimetres.

Flowering time

The Eucomis autumnalis produces its beautifully bizarre flowers in the summer months, extending from December to February of every year.

Use in the garden

The bulb of the Eucomis autumnalis is poisonous and should not be consumed as is. However, when allowed to seep into milk or water, the juices of the bulb can be consumed to treat lower back pain and heal fractures. This decoction is even used to help patients recover from their operation injuries, fevers, flatulence, hangovers, urinary and digestive maladies, and even syphilis. The flavanoids in the Eucomis autumnalis are used for their anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects.

Natural distribution

Naturally, the Eucomis autumnalis has a widespread distribution, extending across all of the provinces of South Africa, as well as into neighbouring countries. They can be found in open grasslands, forest margins, mountain slopes and humid marshes. However, they do tend to be absent in the drier areas of the country, where drought and heat become an inhibiting factor.

Growing Eucomis in your garden

This plant is best suited to rock gardens, but can also do well as bed borders and even in containers. They do best in rich soil and with full or partial sun. Once they are established, they do not need much attention, making them ideal as garden plants.

Every spring, they should receive a liberal amount of good compost, and should be watered in spring and summer, while they grace the garden with flowers. During winter, they can withstand watering or rain, as long as the water has a good drainage system and does not stagnate or soak the bulb.

Propagation

The Eucomis autumnalis is best propagated by planting seeds or offsets. Leaf cuttings and tissue cultures can also be used for this purpose. Seeds should be planted in spring in deep containers. Gardeners can expect to see the first green shoots four to six weeks after planting. They can then be moved into the garden when they are about two years old.

Offsets take longer and need to be taken when the plant has gone onto its dormant state (in winter, usually). They should be kept in a cool, dry place until the spring, at which time they can be planted.

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