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Mossel Bay
9th Aug 2022
Community & LivingGardeningNature & Nurture


This hardy, perennial shrub (Lessertia frutescens) is also known as the balloon pea, sutherlandia, kankerbossie, blaasbossie, blaas-ertjie, etc.

It is found in many dry areas in South Africa and can grow up to 2 m tall. The bitter-tasting leaves are hairy and silvery-green in appearance with bright, scarlet flowers of approximately 35 mm in length, that usually flower from July to December.

Large, bladder-like, almost transparent fruit develops which is popular in flower arrangements as it dries very well. The seeds are black and approximately 3 mm in diameter.

It makes a very attractive garden plant with a variety of medicinal uses. It is used in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, bladder and uterus problems, chicken pox, colds, diabetes, diarrhoea, dysentery, emotional and mental stress, flu, haemorrhoids, inflammation, internal cancers, liver problems, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach ailments and ulcers, TB, varicose veins, and as an immune booster!

The plant is fast growing, easy to grow, water-wise and quite pest resistant, doing well in full sun. In containers, it needs well-drained soils. As it seeds quite readily, one can easily remove the older plants when they are not at their best anymore. They are excellent pioneers in a new garden.

Cancer bushes easily grow from seed – cuttings are a little more difficult. The best time to sow is in spring and autumn in well-drained soil (two parts of sand and one part of compost), approximately 1 m apart in groups of three to five. Germination improves if the seeds are left to soak for about four hours in warm water before planting. Ensure that you are able to place your hands in the water and that it is not too hot. Germination usually occurs two to three weeks after planting; if grown in seed trays, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted once large enough to handle. Irrigate the seedlings every second day until the plant has been established.

Cancer bushes may be harvested in the morning during spring to early summer. The leaves may be harvested three months after planting and the seeds as soon as the balloon-like pods break open. The leaves are frequently used in the making of a tea, which is taken for the various ailments mentioned.

http://pza.sanbi.org/lessertia-frutescens, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924790/, https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/sutherlandia-frutescens/

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