(Syn. Ornithogalum nelsonii)

  • Candlelabrum Lily
  • (Nelson’s) Slime Lily
  • Natal Albuca
  • Natal Lily
  • umababaza (Z)
  • intelezi (X)


  • An uncommon yet most noteworthy species of epigeal bulb, deplorably scarce in the wild, but thankfully gaining popularity in the horticultural trade. This bulbous perennial has a lovely tuft of arciform, somewhat succulent, vivid green leaves and a belfry of unconventionally shaped, waxy flowers which emit a delightful scent reminiscent of almonds. The flowers have 3 alabaster coloured, semi-translucent petals that point sharply outwards and another trio which point forwards and stay close together, forming a narrow tube. Each petal has a prominent green stripe running down the centre. The common name Slime Lily refers to the presence of a viscous, watery sap in the leaves and flower stems and the genus name is believed to stem form the Latin word for white; ‘Albus’, which refers to the flowers. It belongs to a genus of somewhat 80 species, more than half of which are native to southern Africa.


  • Hyacinthaceae (The Hyacinth family) -formerly placed in the Liliaceae family)


  • These robust bulbs are often found growing in large colonies in grasslands, open scrubland and on rocky outcrops and steep littoral cliffs in mainly the summer rainfall areas of the country.

  • They are mostly a coastal species in the Eastern Cape, where they prefer to grow in partially shady areas.

  • In the Natal province they also grow close to the ocean, on cliffs and rocky slopes, but their distribution also extends across nearly the entire province, to parts of Gauteng, Swaziland and Lesotho.

  • They prefer areas where frosts are not too severe, and the annual rainfall is moderate to high.

Foliage & Bulb

  • Semi-evergreen.

  • The bulb is corpulent, semi-rotund (80 – 120 x 70 – 100 mm), and partially buried beneath the soil.

  • Numerous layers of pale greenish, thinly chartaceous, protective scales can be seen around the bulb, and it often forms dense clumps, but may also be solitary.

  • Each bulb produces a curvy, basal tuft of bright, deep green leaves that have a narrowly lanceolate or oblong- ligulate shape; broader at the base and tapering to a cuspidate tip.

  • The leaves measure 800 – 1200 mm x 30 – 50 mm, and have a somewhat fleshy, slightly succulent texture, with smooth, slightly inverted margins and distinctly parallel venation.


  • These bulbs produce a rather loose, corymbose inflorescence that is supported by a firm, rigidly vertical, bare peduncle (500 – 1500 mm).

  • Several erectly held, widely spaced, unusually shaped flowers are carried in this raceme.

  • The flowers have a rough diameter of 20 – 35 mm; 3 outer tepals (petals) that flare outwards, and 3 innermost which point upwards and remain close together, forming a tube-like structure.

  • The petals have a semi-translucent ivory colour, each with a pale russet or dull green mid-stripe.

  • The flowers are strongly scented, with white stamens, and have a somewhat waxy texture.

  • Each flower is supported by a thin stalk (40 – 75 mm) and they usually open from the bottom upwards.

  • September – December.


  • The flowers are succeeded by rather fleshy, obovoid, three-celled capsules containing numerous small seeds.

  • As the capsules mature, each cell starts to dehisce longitudinally, usually starting at the back.


  • 800 – 1500 mm.


  • 100 – 500 mm.


  • Extracts of this plant are used as emetics by the local peoples to bring protection against sorcery.
  • The flower stem is eaten (before the flowers fully open) as it contains a watery, gummy saccharine sap.


  • Parts of this bulb are said to be toxic, especially upon ingestion, and the sap, as well as the bulb, may cause skin irritation when handled.


  • The flowers attract honeybees, butterflies and an array of insects.
  • Certain insectivorous birds may then be attracted by the insects visiting the flowers.


  • It tolerates canopy, dry, partial or deep shade, as well as full sun, making it ideal for planting in an array of landscape settings.
  • It is a striking, attractive plant with unusual flowers that grows very well in a large container and is perfectly suited as a patio plant.
  • The flowers last for a long time, both on the plant and when cut and placed in a vase.
  • It grows and multiplies itself quite rapidly, thereby making it an ideal choice as a groundcover or for mass-planting.
  • It tolerates sandy, dry and rocky soils, and this, as well as its rapid growth, makes it a good choice as a pioneer species for disturbed areas or areas where other, more sensitive plants may struggle.
  • Perfect for exposed embankments and large, open and unsightly areas.
  • Water-wise and hardy, with a non-aggressive, neat root system.
  • Will look marvellous in a rock garden setting.
  • It naturally flourishes in difficult coastal areas and will therefore make a lovely addition to a sea-side garden.
  • It requires little to no maintenance, establishes itself rapidly and withstands considerable neglect.
  • Its drought tolerance makes it well suited for xeriscaping.


  • These bulbs have a high drought tolerance, and can grow, even flourish in very sandy or rocky, generally nutrient poor soils.
  • They are rather tender to frost damage, surviving temperatures as low as -3°C.
  • The foliage may suffer damage from such low temperatures, but the bulb itself will survive if covered with a protective, insulating dry mulch layer.

Growth Rate

  • Moderate – fast.
  • First flowering can be expected after 3-4 seasons (seed).


  • Tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions, from full sun to deep shade and almost everything in between.

Soil & Water

  • These plants grow best in a very well-drained, gritty, sandy or loamy soil, with a neutral to mildly alkaline or acidic ph.
  • They will accept peaty soil, but it must have good drainage.
  • When planting, make sure that at least a quarter to half of the bulb is exposed.
  • They will benefit from a seasonal dose of fertiliser or some added compost when planting.
  • They have low to moderate water needs.
  • If rainfall is high, they will not need to be given much extra water, only on very hot and dry days.
  • A deep drenching once or twice a week otherwise is adequate in the active growing months.
  • Try to keep the bulbs dry in winter when they are dormant.


  • Propagation can be done by means of corm division; by taking offsets from the parent plant or from seed.
  • If growing from seed, harvest them directly from the plant as soon as the pods have dried sufficiently and split open.
  • Sow the seeds in early to mid-spring, into a well-drained, fertile mixture of sand/loam and compost (2:1).
  • Place the trays or containers in a temperate, brightly lit area and keep the soil moist.
  • Germination is typically even and rapid.
  • Offsets taken can be placed into a similar growing medium and should be planted as soon as the worst cold of the season has passed.
  • Take care to plant the bulb with the top part exposed.
  • Check the new bulbs regularly for signs of caterpillar infestation as these can severely damage or even kill them if not removed.