Moraea polystachya, or bloutulp in Afrikaans, is one of the about 180 South African species of the genus called tulpe that is of concern to local farmers. Many of them are toxic to livestock and common in grazing veld of the arid inland regions. It is unfortunately often difficult to distinguish between poisonous and harmless tulpe or uintjies. Not only are some of them edible, they served as an important foodstuff of some indigenous populations in days gone by. The same problem that the ignorant have with mushrooms!
The above-ground parts of Moraea plants die back seasonally, while the plant is a perennial due to its underground corm. New corms grow in the dark matted coatings to nourish the new season's leaves and attractive deep-blue flowers. The Iridaceae flower shape is characteristic, but still holds some surprise of form or colour in every species of its many genera. Moraea is but one of the attractive and interesting genera found in this family.
The bloutulp that blooms in autumn and winter unlike the many summer flowering moraeas, may attract livestock when food is scarce. Animals that have been raised on land with tulp, may avoid them. When moved to a different farm or area, however, they sometimes forget this learning and start eating them at their peril!
M. polystachya resembles M. venenata; the two species are described in combination by www.plantzafrica. It is also similar to M. bipartita of the Little Karoo that has smaller flowers (Manning, 2009; Vahrmeijer, 1981).