Scientific name: Chlorophytum comosum  

Family: Anthericaceae


Common Names: hen-and-chickens, spider plant (Eng.); hen-en-kuikens (Afr.); iphamba (Zulu)

Dicoma capensis

Leaves and flowers of Chlorophytum comosum

Description: Hen-en-chickens is a perennial evergreen herb up to 1 m tall and 1 m in diameter from a decumbent (spreading horizontally at first but then growing upwards) rhizome up to 150 mm long, often covered in old leaf bases.

Leaves grow in a dense basal rosette, are bright green, smooth (glabrous) with a prominent mid-vein, and channeled, about 300 mm long and 20 mm broad, end in a soft point, and the margins are entire and sheathing at the base. The inflorescence is lax, longer than the leaves, spreading, arises from the center of the rosette and is up to 1 m long. The peduncle (stalk of the inflorescence) is 2-4 mm in diameter and has linear-lanceolate bracts tapering to a point.

Flowers are star-shaped (stellate), white and up to 20 mm in diameter with 6 stamens grow in axillary fascicles and oblong tepals (floral leaves) of up to 10 mm long; often replaced by vegetative leafy buds (propagules), which root and serve for vegetative reproduction. The style is smooth and small with a minute point (stigma).

Flowering time: During the summer months.

Fruits : is a 3-angled capsule and its seeds are flattish, black and shiny.

Roots: are fleshy and tapering at both sides (fusiform), succulent, up to 10 mm in diameter.

Origin: South Africa (Western Cape, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga Provinces).

Plant Uses: The plants have been used medicinally by the Nguni (Hutchings et al. 1996), especially for pregnant mothers and as a charm to protect the mother and child. The plant is placed in the room where the mother and child stay. The roots are dipped into a water bowl and mothers drink this daily as it is believed to protect the infant. The young baby is also administered an infusion, acting as a purgative.

Propagation: Chlorophytum comosum is easily propagated by division or from the plantlets on the inflorescences.


Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. & Cunningham, A.B. 1996. Zulu medicinal plants. An inventory : University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg.
Mannin, J. 2009. Field guide to wild flowers of South Africa. Struik Nature Publishers.
Van Jaarsveld, E.J. 1010. Waterwise gardening in South Africa and Namibia. Struik, Cape Town. Accessed 20 December 2018