isiXhosa: Umnwele

Afrikaans: Kankerbos

Cancer bush


Cancer bush

Lessertia frutescens

Scientific name

This is a small bush growing up to about 1m high. It is native to dry parts of southern Africa, preferring full sun but tolerant of a wide variety of soil types. It is a tough plant, hardy, fast growing and drought tolerant but short lived. Seeds germinate readily in around 2 to 3 weeks and established plants self-seed readily. Seedlings may be vulnerable to damping off, but provided it is in well drained soil, it grows readily and is not very vulnerable to pests.

Traditional uses include an infusion made from the leaves is a traditional remedy said to treat fever, chicken pox, flu, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and stomach and liver problems. Although some animals studies have been conducted on the putative pharmacology of S. frutescens, there is no good evidence relating to its safety and efficacy. This plant has been promoted as useful to people with HIV/AIDS, but there is no evidence of benefit, and it interacts adversely with conventional drugs used, such as antiretroviral drugs.

Leaves and stems are used for treating cancer, HIV/AIDS, colds and flu, arthritis, chicken pox, eye problems, digestive and urinary tract issues. Also used for washing of wounds and an appetite stimulant.

Also known as Sutherlandia frutescens, Colutea frutescens, Sutherlandia humilis

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

We currently have no seeds of this species in our seedbanks. Do you have any seeds or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!
We currently have no plants of this species in our home nurseries. Do you have any plants or do you know where we can get some? Get in touch!

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

Site Area Quantity
Site #3 Delft 3
Site #5 Delft 4
Site #6 Delft 4
Site #10 Delft 3
Site #12 Delft 5
Total 19

Can you help grow this species?

We are in need of this species! Can you help? Maybe you have this species at home, or perhaps you can collect seeds or cuttings (if applicable) from friends or from a public space. If so, why don't you help establish this species in areas where it is much needed!

I can help!

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

It provides medicinal value

It provides food for:

Southern double-collared sunbird

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