Sutherlandia frutescens

Sutherlandia frutescens (cancer bush,[2] balloon pea, sutherlandia, phetola ("it changes") in seTswana, and insiswa ("the one that drives away the darkness") in isiZulu; syn. Colutea frutescens L., Lessertia frutescens (L.) Goldblatt & J.C.Manning) is a southern African legume once used as a traditional medicine.[citation needed] It is a shrub with bitter, aromatic leaves. Red-orange flowers appear in spring to mid-summer.[3]

Sutherlandia frutescens
Sutherlandia frutescens 01.jpg
Scientific classification
S. frutescens
Binomial name
Sutherlandia frutescens


Habitat, Richtersveld

Sutherlandia frutescens is a small bush growing up to about 1 m (39 in) high. It is native to dry parts of southern Africa, preferring full sun but tolerant of a wide variety of soil types. It is a tough plant, hardy, fast growing and drought tolerant but short lived. Seeds germinate readily in around two to three weeks and established plants self-seed readily. Seedlings may be vulnerable to damping off, but provided it is in well-drained soil, it grows readily and is not very vulnerable to pests.[3]

Traditional usesEdit

Despite Sutherlandia frutescens having been used by a wide variety of indigenous communities throughout South Africa, the South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute (SAHSMI) is participating in discussion of bio-prospecting in order to be able to claim intellectual property rights concerning the use of Sutherlandia extracts.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Sutherlandia frutescens". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2008-03-03.
  2. ^ "Sutherlandia frutescens". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b Phakamani M' Afrika Xaba & Alice Notten (April 2003). "Sutherlandia frutescens". Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.