Agapanthus africanus, commonly known as lily of the Nile, African blue lily, agapanthus, and the flower of love, is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the agapanthus genus and amaryllidaceae family. Lilies of the Nile are native to the southern part of Africa but have spread to other regions of the world as ornamental plants due to their beautiful blue flowers.
Agapanthus has an interesting side to it: Firstly, it is not a true lily. Secondly, botanists do not seem to decide on its classification. Initially, it was classified as a lily, then changed to the amaryllis and then to the onion family before settling in the amaryllis family. It seems like botanists are still not decided where it belongs.
[Disclaimer: The lily of the Nile contains saponins which might cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.
The plant thrives in full sun in mild climates or partial shade in hotter climates. It has long, pointed leaves sprouting from short rhizomes with fleshy roots. From a distance, the leaves appear to form a leek-like structure at the base of the plant.
During summer, agapanthus produces brightly colored blossoms in umbels on tall stalks. The flowers come in various shades of blue and in some instances, white. These flowers are considered ideal for the cut flower industry as they are not only beautiful but can last for almost two weeks when put in a vase with water.
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Apart from their beauty, the flowers of the lily of the Nile are believed to have magical powers and were normally donned to protect against lightning during storms. They are also worn by women to boost fertility and strength. In some parts of Africa, the flowers and leaves are used in herbal preparations to increase libido and virility. That is why the plant is fondly referred to as an African aphrodisiac.
Agapanthus is known to contain anti-fungal properties. The flowers and rhizomes of the plant have been shown to be highly effective in eliminating a fungus that is responsible for causing the Malabar itch. Extracts from these parts have also been shown to be effective against other fungal infections.
Traditionally, the lily of the Nile was used to induce labor. Studies have shown that extracts from aerial parts of the plant trigger smooth muscle contractions in the uterus. As a result, the plant seems to hold a lot of promise in inducing labor. However, these studies are still far from conclusive as they have only been conducted using rats.
The lily of the Nile may not be a true lily and the jury on its classification is still out. But its ornamental value and herbal benefits are not in doubt.