Originating in southern Africa, balloon cotton-bush is now widely naturalized in northern New Zealand, Australia, and other subtropical parts of the world. This evergreen shrub has star-shaped white flowers that appear in summer and pale green narrow leaves. It's a short-lived shrub that was used in African medicine as a purgative and for intestinal conditions in children. Europeans living in Africa powdered the leaves to use as a snuff to help treat lung diseases. However, the plant is known to be poisonous so using it as a medicine is not recommended at all. There have been cases of animals being poisoned after consuming the plant although fatalities have been rare.
Apart from medicinal uses, a fibre is made from the stems and the soft seed-hairs inside the inflated fruits have been used instead of kapok to stuff cushions.
Proprietor, author, and tutor of The Home Herbalist Online Course.