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HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Tulbaghia violacea

Tulbaghia violacea

Society garlic or pink agapanthus, wild garlic, sweet garlic, spring bulbs, spring flowers (Tulbaghia violacea Harv., 1837) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Division Magnoliophyta,
Class Liliopsida,
Order Liliales,
Family Amaryllidaceae,
Subfamily Allioideae,
Genus Tulbaghia,
Species T. violacea.
The terms are synonymous:
– Omentaria violacea (Harv.) Kuntze, 1891;
– Tulbaghia cepacea var. maritima Vosa, 1977;
– Tulbaghia cepacea var. robustior Kunth, 1833
– Tulbaghia violacea var. minor Baker, 1870;
– Tulbaghia violacea var. obtusa Baker, 1870;
– Tulbaghia violacea var. robustior (Kunth) R.B.Burb., 1978.
– Tulbaghia violacea var. violacea.

Within this species the following subspecies are recognised:
– Tulbaghia violacea subsp. macmasteri Vosa;
– Tulbaghia violacea subsp. violacea.

Etymology –
The term Tulbaghia was dedicated by Linnaeus to the Dutch governor of the Cape Colony, Ryjk Tulbagh (14 May 1699, Utrecht – 11 August 1771, Cape Town) who had sent him numerous samples of the local flora.
The specific epithet violacea comes from the Latin “violaceus, a, um”, i.e. violaceous, in reference to the color of the flowers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Tulbaghia violacea is a plant native to southern Africa (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal) and reportedly naturalized in Tanzania and Mexico.
Its habitat in the areas of origin is that of prairies on rocky soils, forest edges and banks of waterways, between sea level and 1,220 meters above sea level.

Description –
Tulbaghia violacea is a herbaceous, rhizomatous perennial plant, semi-evergreen in warmer climates, which grows up to 60 cm high and 25 cm wide.
This plant forms dense tufts with numerous sheathing leaves at the base.
The leaves are linear in shape with obtuse apex, slightly fleshy, 20-50 cm long and 0.4-0.7 cm wide, green or grey-green in colour, which when crumpled emit a penetrating garlicky smell.
The floral scape is erected from the center of the rosette, 30-65 cm long, which ends with an umbrella-shaped inflorescence, initially enclosed in a spathe composed of two ovate-lanceolate membranous valves, bearing 8-20 lilac-coloured, pleasantly scented flowers. which open in succession.
The flowers are scented, they are found on a 1-2 cm long pedicel, with a perianth in two whorls united to form a tube, 1-1.2 cm long, which ends with 3 external and 3 internal lobes, elliptical with obtuse apex, 6-8 mm long and 2-3 mm wide, 6 stamens, of which 3 at the apex of the tube and 3 inside, trilocular ovary and style 1-2 mm long.
The fruit is a trigonal capsule.
Inside there are numerous oblong, flattened, black seeds.

Cultivation –
Tulbaghia violacea is a plant that is sometimes collected in the wild for local use as a food and medicine. It is widely cultivated in warm temperate to tropical areas as an ornamental plant.
This plant requires well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny, sheltered position. The flowers are very fragrant at night and the whole plant has a garlic-like aroma.
Plants can bloom year-round if grown in warm climates.
Some varieties with ornamental value have been selected.
It is a species with long flowering in the summer-autumn period that requires little care, usable for flowerbeds, borders, even mixed, and rock gardens in a wide variety of climates, withstanding both high and low temperature values, up to -12 ° C at the level of the rhizome, and of soils, provided they are perfectly draining, with preference for sandy ones.
For cultivation, an exposure in full sun is advisable, to flower at its best, and frequent watering during the growth period, spaced during flowering and in winter in order to keep the substratum just moist; tillered plants can withstand long periods of drought. It can also be cultivated in pots with the methods indicated above and fertilization with slow-release products, specific for flowering plants in pots.
It reproduces by seed in a draining substratum kept humid, but without stagnation, at a temperature of 22-24 °C, with germination times of 2-4 weeks and first flowering after 2-3 years, and easily by division in winter-spring. In nature it self-disseminates easily.
Furthermore, it has been shown that treating seeds with a smoke solution increases leaf mass and seedling height; furthermore, seeds exposed to aerosol smoke lead to a higher seedling survival rate.

Customs and Traditions –
Tulbaghia violacea is a plant known by some common names, including: pink agapanthus, society garlic, sweet garlic, wild garlic (English); wildeknoflok, noffel (Afrikaans); utswelane (isiXhosa); isihaqa (Zulu).
The leaves and flowers of this plant can be used to flavor salads, soups and other dishes, with a similar flavor, but less strong than that of garlic (Allium sativum L.).
T. violacea leaves are eaten as a substitute for chives and garlic. In South Africa, the Zulus eat the leaves and flowers as a leafy vegetable like spinach or to season meat and potatoes.
In the medicinal field this plant is used topically as a herbal remedy/medicine to treat various ailments.
Furthermore, due to the growing evidence of its potential as an antifungal agent, large-scale commercialization is expected. However, this could put the Tulbaghia genus at risk as it is susceptible to overuse.
Regarding the safety of its consumption and possible toxicity, some deaths and symptoms such as gastroenteritis, abdominal pain, cessation of gastrointestinal peristalsis, desquamation of the intestinal mucosa and contraction of the pupils have been implicated in drugs prepared with T. violacea. There has been speculation that T. violacea may cause poisoning, but tests on rabbits have shown no adverse effects. It is possible that the reported adverse effects are due to extensive use and/or high dosages of the plant. Adverse effects are generally assumed to be associated with steroidal saponins and/or sulfur compounds.
Some authors have found that the leaves and flowers of the plant are edible as vegetables. Others have found that these parts (leaves and flowers) are non-toxic.
Furthermore, laboratory studies have highlighted the presence in various parts of the plant of bioactive compounds with antioxidant, anti-cancer, antimicrobial, antithrombotic and antihypertensive properties, of certain interest for the official pharmacopoeia.

Preparation Method –
Tulbaghia violacea is a plant used for both food and medicinal purposes, as well as ornamental ones.
Among the food uses, the leaves and stems are consumed raw or cooked. They have a mild garlic flavor and are used as a seasoning in soups and salads.
The leaves have a spicy flavor but don’t have much flavor.
Raw or cooked flowers can be added to salads, used as a garnish or as a flavoring in cooked foods.
The flowers are very ornamental, they have an onion heat in the mouth but very little flavor.
In the medicinal field, a decoction of the bulbs is used in the treatment of intestinal worms.
No other uses are known.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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