The black-stick lily, monkey’s tail or bobbejaanstert in Afrikaans is an unusual resident of summer rainfall rocky hillside grassland. It is found across the northern and eastern parts of South Africa and in Swaziland.
The branched stems retain the leaf bases from previous seasons, the plants being deciduous.
The habitat of Xerophyta retinervis is prone to veld fires. The dry, fibrous leaf base parts on the stems become blackened by the fires while the plant survives, thanks to its fire resistent fibrous mat covering. The plant also survives cold, drought and the low nutrient soils typical of its habitat.
The erect black stems make Xerophyta retinervis easy to identify. The plant is not threatened as it is hardy, but stressed from frequent harvesting for medicinal and some cultural purposes by indigenous populations (www.plantzafrica.com; Manning, 2009).