Cyanella alba is one of seven Cyanella species. Most of them grow from turnip-like corms. Tufts of narrow or terete (thinly cylindrical) appear annually at ground level.
C. alba flowers may be white as the plant in picture and the specific name indicates, but also yellow or pink with one stamen curiously separate from the other five. The style is long, white and also angled to one side. The inner three petals are often a little different to the outer ones in colour and shape.
Various indigenous and early settler populations used to eat the roasted corms of several Cyanella species, calling them raaptolle. A raap is Afrikaans for turnip, a tol is a (spinning) top, also Afrikaans. Raaptol refers to the shape of the corm.
When balanced meals were not available from supermarkets, the land served the purpose. People lived closer to the land then, more aware of its wellbeing by going hungry when the land suffered. The risk is still the same, the reminders just harder to see or totally absent from the lives of the majority of people.
C. alba grows in the western inland winter rainfall region in the Cederberg and around towns like Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam and Ceres. All three its subspecies are rare or vulnerable in their habitat early in the twenty first century.
C. lutea with yellow or pink flowers is more widespread, C. orchidiformis has mauve or white flowers, occurring near Clanwilliam and C. hyacinthoides has white, mauve or pink flowers, grows from the Cape Peninsula to Namaqualand (Bond and Goldblatt, 1984; Fox and Norwood Young, 1982; www.redlist.sanbi.org).