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Bowiea volubilis02.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Scilloideae
Genus: Bowiea
Harv. ex Hook.f.
B. volubilis
Binomial name
Bowiea volubilis
Harv. ex Hook.f.
  • Ophiobostryx Skeels
  • Schizobasopsis J.F.Macbr.
  • Ophiobostryx volubilis (Harv. ex Hook.f.) Skeels
  • Schizobasopsis volubilis (Harv. ex Hook.f.) J.F.Macbr.
  • Bowiea gariepensis van Jaarsv.
  • Bowiea kilimandscharica Mildbr.

Bowiea is a bulbous genus of perennial, succulent plants which thrive in dry and desert regions of eastern and southern Africa. It is native to a region stretching from Kenya to Cape Province.[1]

The plants have many overlapping scales, which form a tight, pale green, spherical bulb that grows to 8 in (20 cm) above the soil, sending up a twining fresh-green branched stem with few linear deciduous leaves. Dormant in winter, when the outer scales and many of the scale tips dry to a paper-like state, the plants burst to growth in late spring or summer, producing one or more very fast-growing stems that needs to be supported by a trellis or stake. The stems are covered with many leafless side-branches that may fall off. The small greenish-white flowers appear in spring. The genus is named after the nineteenth-century British plant collector at Kew, James Bowie.[2][3]


The plants prefer gritty well-drained soil in partial sun to shade. Water regularly during the growing season, and rarely if at all during dormancy. Propagate from seed, divisions, or from individual scales which once removed, will eventually form numerous bulbils.[citation needed]


One species is recognized, with two subspecies[1]

  • Bowiea volubilis (climbing-onion, sea onion[4])
    • Bowiea volubilis subsp. gariepensis (van Jaarsv.) Bruyns - Namibia, Cape Province
    • Bowiea volubilis subsp. volubilis - from Cape Province to Kenya


  1. ^ a b c Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Govaerts, R. (1996). World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. Continental Publishing, Deurne.
  3. ^ Stedje, B. (1996). Hyacinthaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-32.
  4. ^ Top 10 Ugly Plants

External links[edit]

  • Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. (2014). "Bowiea volubilis". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.
  • Graf, Alfred Byrd (1986) Tropica: color cyclopedia of exotic plants and trees for warm-region horticulture–in cool climate the summer garden or sheltered indoors; 3rd ed. East Rutherford, N.J.: Roehrs Co
  • Lord, Tony (2003) Flora : The Gardener's Bible : More than 20,000 garden plants from around the world. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36435-5
  • Botanica Sistematica