Dianella ensifolia

Taisha is again the author of today’s entry. She writes:

Common names for Dianella ensifolia include cerulean flax-lily, New Zealand lilyplant and umbrella-dracaena. The three images of this species’ inflorescence, flower and fruit were taken by Bart Wursten (aka zimbart@Flickr) on a trip to Mozambique (and shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thanks for contributing again, Bart!

Dianella ensifolia occurs in a broad range of habitats, from seashores to open scrubland to open lowland forests. According to Bart, this species is widespread on the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Réunion, but known only from the African mainland from forested areas at the foot of Chimanimani mountains in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In Asia, this species is distributed across much of the southeastern part of the continent in temperate and tropical regions. Notably, despite one of its common names, this particular species is not native to New Zealand.

The cerulean flax-lily is a rhizomatous species with long, narrow leaves (“ensiform”). The flowers are arranged in a terminal cymose panicle. These later develop into blue-purple berries. This species has many regional-dependent uses in Asia. For example, the dried fibrous roots may be used medicinally by chewing, imbibed in a decoction, applied with a poultice, or applied as an ointment (often as ashes and sometimes including the ashes of the leaves as well). Another use for the roots is as an ingredient in perfume and cosmetics. The fresh rhizome has also been pounded, mixed with rice, and finally roasted to set a poison for killing mice and rats.

Dianella ensifolia
Dianella ensifolia
Dianella ensifolia

6 responses to “Dianella ensifolia”

  1. Pat

    Dianella ensifolia (Swordleaf Dianella) is a common native species of Malaysia, Singapore & Indonesia. In addition, the plant is frequently cultivated as a low-maintenance, clumping groundcover & for its ornamental blue berries.
    The species is known as Rumput Siak-siak (“Siak-siak Grass”) in Malay, while its Chinese name 山菅 (shān jiān) translates to “Hill Coarse Grass”.
    One of the main uses of the roots is as a deworming remedy, whereby the dried roots are chewed or applied a a poultice to the abdomen. See below for more photos of the plant & info about its medicinal uses.
    * The Plant Observatory
    * Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online
    * Herbs & Medicinal Plants of Malaysia Info Series
    * Global Info Hub on Integrated Medicine

  2. Elizabeth Revell

    The New Zealand species is Dianella nigra: we call it either Turutu or plain old Dianella; occasionally it may be called Blueberry …

  3. Paula DeRoy

    I could swear this occasionally pops up in my northern Virginia yard on the East coast of the U.S. Is that possible?

  4. Gabrielle

    Paula, the flowers have a passing resemblance to Solanum dulcamara, (Bittersweet Nightshade or Swamp Candles) which is widely naturalized in North America and might be what you see in Va.

  5. smallhousebiggarden.wordpress.com

    Check out those bright berries! wow! I’ve never seen anything like them!

  6. Mike Hill

    I love this plant, it is common on the larger islands of Seychelles where I used to work and this year I saw it on the island of Putuoshan in China which is a lot less tropical

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