• Petra Vandecasteele

Meet the Chincherinchee

In the 1960s, you could ship a box of chincherinchees from Cape Town to your friends in Europe. Arriving 3 weeks later in perfect condition, the flowers would open and still last for another 6 weeks.” – Prof. Wim Tijmens

Chincherinchee – Ornithogalum. © by Paul Godard

When is the best time to see it in the wild?

It flowers in late spring.

Did you know?

Chincherinchees are phototropic, meaning they bend in response to light.


The above-parts of the plant can cause skin irritation and are toxic to livestock if ingested; baboons, however, seem to like them.

Chincherinchee – Ornithogalum © by Paul Godard


Ornithogalum is derived from the Greek ornis meaning ‘bird’ and gala meaning ‘milk’, and refers to the white flowers. When the Romans regarded something as wonderful, they called it ‘brid’s milk’.

‘Chinckerinchee’ is the English translation of the Afrikaans ‘tjienkerientjee’. It comes from the light high-pitched chink of the fresh stalks rubbing together. Both names were used in the 18th century.

In the market

From 1948 to 1968, you could buy locally grown cut flowers in Durban’s city market. Today, KwaZulu-Natal relies on the Western Cape for its supplies.


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