isiXhosa: Ubuhlungubemamba

Afrikaans: Kruidjie-roer-my-nie



Melianthus major

Scientific name

As seen in the picture, this plant has distinctively shaped large bright green leaves and elongated post of red flowers. The leaves give off a nutty repulsive smell.

It grows easily and fast from seeds and cuttings. Seeds are sown in autumn in sandy soil and covered with a sprinkling of sand or fine bark. Cuttings can be taken any time from young shoots at the bottom of the plant.

Pollinated by sunbirds, white eyes, starlings and bees and attracts butterflies.

This plant is poisonous if used incorrectly but has been used in traditional medicine for a wide range of treatments. See links below for more detail.

Propagation instructions

By seed

Melianthus major grows very easily from seed or cuttings.

The seed is sown in autumn in seed trays filled with a well-drained medium and covered lightly with sand or finely milled bark.

Germination is usually within a month.

The young seedlings are potted up into bags or small pots and grown on until strong enough to be planted out into the garden.

It prefers a warm, well-watered, sunny position, with good drainage.

Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. 

Melianthus grows fast and will make a show within a few months.

Make sure to give it enough room to spread.

During the dry summers or whenever the plants are untidy, they should be cut back hard, to encourage new growth.

The plants can survive in cold areas with frost, sending new shoots from the base in spring.

By cutting

Melianthus major grows very easily from seed or cuttings.

The cuttings can be made any time of the year depending on material available.

Cuttings are made from the new shoots sprouting from the base.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Seedbank Quantity
Arundel Seedbank 919
Zenker Seed Emporium 100
Total 1019
Nursery Quantity
Arundel Nursery 51
Joydell 20
Mother Nursery 72
Total 143

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #18 Rosebank 10
Site #62 Newlands 25
Total 35

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

This is a bird-friendly species

It provides medicinal value


Easy to grow

Suitable for clay soil

It provides food for:


Southern double-collared sunbird

Melianthus major is indigenous to: Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos Cape Flats Dune Strandveld

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