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Top 5 indigenous, deciduous trees to attract butterflies

Here are the deciduous trees that will attract butterflies into your garden.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

Vachellia robusta (Acacia robusta)

(Splendid Acacia)

This is a very upright tree and it has dark green foliage that grows more erect than other Acacia species. The white, scented ball shaped flowers open in spring and it starts flowering when it is about six years old. The flowers attract insects for the insect eating birds. This is an ideal garden tree and it is fast growing, about 1m per year. The bark is used to make twine and it is eaten by Rhino. The bark is also used for tanning. Baboon and monkeys eat the young shoots and the gum. It can be used for security hedging /screening. It attracts butterflies like the Hutchinson Highflier as it is the larval host. The weavers eat the seeds and the leaves are browsed by kudu. The roots are apparently poisonous but the tree is used medicinally as it is inhaled for chest complaints and applied for skin ailments. It is also used magically to get rid of snakes. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 3 meters to a building or a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

Celtis africana

(White Stinkwood)

This medium deciduous tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in sun or semi-shade. if well watered it will grow 2 meters a year. It occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Ethiopia. Tiny yellow, sweetly scented flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds. The fruit is also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The tree is also browsed by game like kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala and grey duiker. It is also used for nesting sites and a tall perch from which to lookout. Butterflies like the African Snout, Blue-spotted Emperor and the Foxy Emperor as well as several moths are also attracted to this fodder tree. It is a popular bonsai subject and the wood is used for furniture. It can be planted in a container. The common name is as a result of the unpleasant smell when the wood is first cut. It is magical as is used to protect against lightening by mixing the wood shavings with crocodile fat. It is always found where there is underground water or streams. Plant it 6 meters from buildings or pools. This is a protected tree in South Africa.

Clausena anisata

(Horsewood)

A deciduous, small, neat and attractive tree. It is often maligned, as the crushed leaves give off a strong, aniseed-like scent which is considered by many to be unpleasant. In some plants the smell is pleasant but in others it's Afrikaans common name ‘Perdepis’, meaning 'horse urine' is most descriptive. The ripening fruits which turn from red to black are much loved by birds and are very attractive. It produces yellow flowers in spring and they attract insects which in turn attracts the insect eating birds. This tree deserves a spot in any garden but don't crush the leaves if you find the scent objectionable. It has non-aggressive roots system and the leaves are used to flavour curry.It is medicinal and is used for internal parasites, fevers and heart ailments. The leaves are burnt as a mosquito repellent and sticks are used as toothbrushes. The leaves are used to make a tea to strengthen the blood and it has a host of medicinal and magical uses. The wood is used for sticks and hut building. Steam for the twigs and leaves is used to strengthen Xhosa babies. This is the larval host to two moth species and the Citrus, Constantine, Emperor, Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded Swallowtail butterflies.Named for Peder Claussen Friis ( 1545-1614) who was a Norwegian parish priest and a naturilist. He had a great interest in geography, history and ancient languages and wrote prolifically.

Kiggelaria africana

(Wild Peach)

This medium sized, well shaped and reasonably robust tree has smooth pale grey bark that becomes rough with age. It is found from the Cape Peninsula to Tanzania. The variable leaves of this evergreen tree may resemble those of the peach. The tiny, bell-shaped flowers which bloom from spring to summer, are yellow-green, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The hard, round, knobbly, greenish yellow capsule which forms in late summer to mid-winter splits to expose shiny black seeds, enclosed in an oily, sticky, bright orange-red coat. The birds like pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, louries, hornbills, robinss, shrikes, starlings. thrush, white - eyes and mousebirds can’t resist these seeds. This tree is said to attract lightning, but some people use it to protect their homes. It is frost hardy and drought resistant and it needs to be planted in full sun. The wood is used for furniture. It is a larval host for the Garden Acraea and the Battling Glider butterflies. This tree is always found where there is underground water or streams. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Names for Francois Kiggelaer (1648-1722) a Dutch botanist, plant collector, traveller and curator of Simon van Beaumont's garden in The Hague.

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