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A picture of a Cancer bush

Cancer bush

Lessertia frutescens

Also known as

Balloon pea, Duck plant

Lessertia frutescens by Dave Richardson (

Full Sun
Easy care
Light watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

More images of Cancer bush

A photo of Cancer bush
A photo of Cancer bush
A photo of Cancer bush
A photo of Cancer bush
A photo of Cancer bush

Cancer bush Overview

Lessertia frutescens (previously Sutherlandia frutescens) is well-known for its medicinal properties, interesting balloon-like fruit capsules and incredibly bitter taste. Lessertia frutescens is a fast-growing, hardy shrublet that has been cultivated in gardens for many years. The silvery-grey leaves and loose clusters of luminous coral-red pea-shaped flowers appearing in spring to mid-summer makes it a very attractive garden subject. Although short-lived as a garden subject, they are perfect pioneers for a new garden. Cancer bush is easy to grow from seed, water-wise, and tolerant of many soil types. It is drought-resistant and enjoys well-draining soil. Part of the Fabaceae family, Lessertia frutescens is known to fix nitrogen in the soil. The common name ‘cancer bush’ alludes to its reputation as a potential cure for cancer. Although there is no scientific support for Lessertia as a cure for cancer, it has been proven to boost the immune system and activate the body's resources to combat disease and mental and physical stress of daily life.

Common problems with Cancer bush

Generally pest-free.

How to harvest Cancer bush

Pick the leaves to make tea as needed or dry for later use.

How to propagate Cancer bush


Sow in Autumn. Plant in clusters 3-5 close together. Sow 1.5 times deeper than the size of the seed. Germination time usually 2-3 weeks.


You can propagate from seeds which should be sown in the spring or from cuttings in the summer.

Special features of Cancer bush

Attracts birds

Drought resistant

Pot plant


Attractive flowers

Attractive fruits

Other uses of Cancer bush

Grown for their flowers and fruits.


It's medicinal properties are related to immunity boosting in cancer treatment, an antiseptic wound wash, reducing fevers, treatment of chicken pox, stomach issues, colds, flu, asthma, TB and bronchitis.


Unusual seedpods and striking flowers make this interesting plant to add to the garden.

Indigenous Shrubs | Bees

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