Bulbine bulbosa

Bulbine Lily, Wild Onion, Golden Lily, Leek Lily, Yellow Onion Weed and Native Leek

Family: Asphodelaceae

A grassy lily (monocot) with a bulb-like rhizome.

It grows throughout temperate Australia from central Queensland to Tasmania and South Australia. It grows in all parts of NSW, usually on heavier soils.

It grows in a variety of habitats including dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests as well as grasslands and rock crevices. It can be found in large numbers in cleared and regenerating open grassy areas after rain.

Bulbine spp. have simple lily-like leaves, produced in a basal clump. In this species, they are green-grey, rounded, succulent and channelled, growing to 40 cm long and about 0.8 cm wide (resembling leek or chives).

Bulbine spp. have flowers with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals that are not differentiated – a typical “lily” feature). The bright yellow star-like flowers are approximately 2 cm wide and are borne on racemes of up to 50 flowers and are odorous. Each flower reportedly lasts for just one day, with one to several opening at a time. The stamens have a tuft of hairs.

The fruit of Bulbine is a capsule. In this species, they are to 6 mm long with the seeds to 2 mm long, brown to black in colour.

In the garden

Author’s notes:

In the author’s Sydney garden, B. bulbosa only reaches 50 cm tall and often less depending on moisture levels.

B. bulbosa is an attractive species. It is especially suited to rockeries and cottage gardens and is also excellent as a container plant. It will grow in full or part sun and tolerates a variety of soils provided reasonable drainage is available. It is also frost hardy making it suitable for regions with cooler climates. B. bulbosa is best maintained with regular watering throughout the year. It will likely do better on a loam to clay soil but with some drainage.

If planted in a continuous patch – it can look very striking (in the manner of a patch of daffodils or tulips).


Two methods may be used for propagation – seed or division. This plant will self-seed in the garden but not enough to be a problem, so these seedlings can be dug up and potted on.

Other information

It appears to be toxic to stock in large quantities.

B. bulbosa is also useful as a food plant. The plump, round rhizomes were traditionally eaten by Aboriginal people. These are best roasted and can be eaten all year round, although it will take a few years initially for the rhizome to mature. Note: the rhizomes are likely toxic when raw.

First Nations names for B. bulbosa include “Parm”, “Puewan” and “Pike”.

Bulbine is a genus of about 50 species, found in South Africa and Australia. Australia has about 5 endemic species. NSW currently has 5 species.

Bulbine can likely reshoot after fire from the swollen rhizome, as well as the seed bank.

Bulbine translated from Greek – volvos (βολβος) meaning “bulbous”, referring to the bulb-shaped rhizome of many members of this genus.

bulbosa Latin meaning “bulb” (though the species does not have a true bulb as in onions or tulips).

This species is not considered to be at risk in the wild.

Australian National Herbarium – Bulbine bulbosa profile page          https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2003/bulbine-bulbosa.html

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Bulbine bulbosa profile page

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.