Scientific Name
Drimia sanguinea (Schinz) Jessop
Higher Classification
Urginea burkei Baker, Urginea sanguinea Schinz
Common Names
Rooislangkop (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Near Threatened A2d
Assessment Date
V.L. Williams, D. Raimondo, N.R. Crouch, V.J. Brueton, A.B. Cunningham, C.R. Scott-Shaw, M. Lötter & A.M. Ngwenya
The population has declined by 20-25% in the last three generations (generation length 20 years) due to harvesting for the medicinal plant trade, especially for the Gauteng trade. Declines are expected to continue and the species should be re-evaluated in the future. It is therefore listed as Near Threatened under criterion A.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West
This species occurs in the Northern Cape and across to the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces. It is also found in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Madikwe Dolomite Bushveld
Plants grow in open veld and scrubby woodland in a variety of soil types.
Drimia sanguinea is a distinctive, well known and highly poisonous bulb that has a deep-red colour. It has caused mass livestock mortality in the past and was subject to frequent land clearance by farmers. One farmer in the Wolmaransstad area removed up to 400 000 bulbs annually from his land, and eradication was enforced in the Heidelberg and Belfast municipalities after it was declared a noxious weed (Stent and Curson 1929). It is currently threatened by mass harvesting for the medicinal plant trade, especially in the Gauteng Province. It was sold by more than 70% of muthi shops in 1994, and by more that 50% of the street traders in the Faraday market in 2001 (Williams 2003, Williams 2007). It was also the most common species in the Faraday market and was present at more stalls and in bigger volumes than any other species. Some traders tend to sell it interchangeably with D. altissima, D. elata and D. robusta under the name 'skanama' or 'isiklenama', but it is D. sanguinea that is the most prevalent of the 'skanama' species. Williams et al. (2007) estimated that more than 1961 bags (50kg-size) of Drimia spp. were sold annually by the muthi shops, and that more than 443 bags were bought by the Faraday traders. These volumes translated into more than 380 000 and more than 124 000 bulbs being extracted annually respectively (Williams et al. 2007). According to V. Brueton (pers. comm., 2008), D. Sanguinea was the most common species in the Gauteng markets and was prevalent in the markets throughout the year in large quantities. At least 80% of the traders in the Faraday market sell it, and most traders have on display a volume equivalent to one medium size shopping bag. The species is not common in the Warwick market in Durban and only about two traders in that market were seen selling a few bulbs in January 2008 - hence it is sporadically available there. According to the chairman of the Warwick market, Ma Dlamini, they primarily sell (and have more access to) Drimia robusta but they will use D. sanguinea if someone brings it to them from Gauteng. Drimia robusta has the same prevalence in the Durban markets as D. sanguinea has in the Gauteng markets. Drimia sanguinea doesn't seem to be as sensitive to disturbance and removal as D. altissima is, and the former will flower in the markets and in a greenhouse after it has been harvested (50-60% of bulbs in the market and greenhouse were observed to have flowered).

It is estimated that the population has declined by 20-25% in the last three generations (60 years) due to harvesting for the medicinal plant trade, especially in Gauteng. It is an occasional species in the Durban markets due to the distance from its area of origin. Declines are expected to continue and the species should be re-evaluated in the future.

Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Drimia sanguinea (Schinz) JessopNT A2dRaimondo et al. (2009)

Neuwinger, H.D. 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs: chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology. Chapman & Hall, Weinheim.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Stent, S.M. and Curson, H.H. 1929. Poisonous plants of South Africa. Bulletin 49. Department of Agriculture, Union of South Africa.

Williams, V.L. 2003. Hawkers of health: an investigation of the Faraday Street traditional medicine market in Johannesburg. Report to Gauteng Directorate for Nature Conservation, DACEL.

Williams, V.L. 2007. The design of a risk assessment model to determine the impact of the herbal medicine trade on the Witwatersrand on resources of indigenous plant species. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Williams, V.L., Balkwill, K. and Witkowski, E.T.F. 2007. Size-class prevalence of bulbous and perennial herbs sold in the Johannesburg medicinal plant markets between 1995 and 2001. South African Journal of Botany 73(1):144-155.

Williams, V.L., Witkowski, T.F. and Balkwill, K. 2007. Volume and financial value of species traded in the medicinal plant markets of Gauteng, South Africa. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 14(6):584-603.

Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Brueton, V.J., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. & Ngwenya, A.M. 2008. Drimia sanguinea (Schinz) Jessop. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/05/20

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Distribution map

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