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Aspalathus linearis - (Burm.f.)R.Dahlgren.

Common Name Rooibos
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Sandy hills and on the sides of mountains[245]. Well-drained, sandy but moisture-retaining, non-acidic soils[268].
Range S. Africa - south and south-west Cape.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Aspalathus linearis Rooibos

Aspalathus linearis Rooibos


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Aspalathus linearis is a SHRUB growing to 2 m (6ft 7in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. It is in flower from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 South Wall. By. West Wall. By.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

A tea made from the dried fermented leaves tastes similar to oriental tea made from Camellia sinensis[238]. It is less astringent, however, due to the lower tannin content[238]. It is caffeine-free, but has a higher content of fluoride which might help to protect against tooth decay[238]. Recent research has shown that this tea contains a substance similar to superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant compound that is thought to retard the ageing process[238]. The leaves and stems are harvested in the summer, fermented and sun dried for later use[238]. The leaves are sometimes used as a flavouring in foods and in baking[268].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antipsoriatic  Antispasmodic  Eczema  Tonic

Rooibos was traditionally used by the Bushmen and Hottentots of South Africa and is becoming increasingly popular in the West as a pleasant tasting tea that also has health benefits[268]. A tea made from the leaves and stems of rooibos is generally beneficial to the digestive system and relaxes spasms[238], it has been used in the treatment of vomiting, diarrhoea and other mild gastric complaints[268]. It has also been shown to be of benefit when used internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of allergies especially milk allergy[268], eczema, hay fever and asthma in infants[238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a very well-drained acid sandy soil and a warm sunny position[200]. When grown in pots it needs to be kept dry but not arid in the winter[200]. This species tolerates several degrees of frost in its native habitat[200], though this cannot be applied directly to plants grown in Britain because of our cooler summers and colder, wetter winters. Plants are said to be frost-tolerant in one report[238], but in general plants are usually pot-grown in greenhouses in this country and can be brought into the garden for the summer[200]. Cultivated commercially for its leaves, which are used to make a tea. Rooibos is one of the few wild species to have been developed as a commercial crop in the last 100 years[238]. It is grown for use as a tea, though it is also used medicinally[238]. Commercial plantations last for about 7 years before they need to be replaced. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow late spring in a greenhouse covering the seed with about 10mm of soil[238, 268]. It will probably be beneficial to pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water prior to sowing. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained sandy soil as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. It will probably be wise to give the plants protection from the cold and from excessive rain for at least their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood in a closed frame in early summer[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Kaffree, Redbush tea, Red tea,

AFRICA: South Africa (Western Cape)

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

arno bredenkamp   Thu Sep 5 17:29:21 2002

Link: Premium Rooibos imported to Canada List of research references on Rooibos

Kelly O'Neil   Tue Feb 8 19:57:10 2005

Link: lifespantea.com medical research on this plant commonly called rooibos

Dries Human   Tue Jan 24 2006

I would like to know more on the making of aspalathus's cuttings. Where to cut and how to get optimal growth on these cuttings. I'm a new worker at the ARC in Bethlehem (Free State, SA) Doing research on the plant Please reply to: Dries Human [email protected]

Richard Jones   Wed Feb 22 2006

I am intrigued by the above information as Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Roducts state that it will grow nowhere in the worls except the Cedarberg Mountain area of the South-western Cape. Fom where can I obtain the seeds please?.

Anthony Armitage   Sat Oct 7 2006

I have managed to get seeds from an Australian company - ironically. They are: www.herbalistics.com.au


William A. Weber   Sat Mar 3 2007

This is the "bush tea" mentioned by Alexander McCall Snmith in his fictional series of books beginning with The No. 1 Ladies' Detwective Agency.

dylan   Fri May 11 2007

B+T world seeds also supply these seeds

Jill Yost   Sat Jan 20 2007

Is Aspalathus linearis gluten-free?

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