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Top 5 Indigenous evergreen trees for a thorny barrier

Carissa macrocarpa

(Large Num-Num)

This small evergreen tree grows to about 4 meters and is water wise. It flourishes in the sun or semi-shade. Fragrant white flowers occur from spring to mid-summer and they attract insects, butterflies and insect eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. This shrub is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is suitable for containers and coastal gardens as it tolerates wind and salt spray. It is a low maintenance plant. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked to produce a jam, chopped into salads, jelly or bredies. They produce pink dye. Macrocarpa means 'large fruit'. The root is used medicinally for coughs, a tonic or for VD. I stick is used in a hut to repel snakes and they are planted near the homestead for protection. In West Africa the roots are used to flavour stews and a piece of root and leaf is placed in water containers to keep it fresh. On the Highveld do plant it in a protected spot as they are frost tender when young.

Carissa bispinosa

(Num-Num)

A small evergreen Highveld tree which is water wise, and is happy in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The fragrant white flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds as well as butterflies. This thorny bush is ideal for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or a thorny security barrier. It is medicinal as the roots are used for toothache. The fruit is edible and is enjoyed by monkeys, people and birds.All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The tree is browsed by game. It makes an ideal tree for small gardens, provided that it’s not planted close to a pathway because of the little thorns.

Cassinopsis ilicifolia

(Lemon Thorn)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. Little white flowers open in summer and they are followed by little yellow fruit that look like miniature lemons and they attract insect and fruit eating birds like bulbuls, starlings, barbets, pigeons, guineafowl and francolins. The tree is also used for nesting sites and the leaves are browsed. It can be utilized for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is an ideal tree for small gardens and looks great near a pond. As it does not have aggressive roots it can be planted in a container, near a building or paving.If the leaves start to drop, this is an indication that it is water deprived. The name comes from the Greek opsis=resemblance as the genus resembles Cassine.

Dovyalis caffra

(Kei Apple)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The cream flowers are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies, and are produced in spring and are followed by orange fruit which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like the louries and black eyed bulbuls. It makes a safe nesting site. It is useful for an informal hedge/screen or a thorny security barrier as they retain their lower branches and can be planted close together as they do not have aggressive roots. The fruit is also useful as it is rich in vitamin C and although sour it is tasty and is eaten raw or used for jelly and jam making. It is eaten by Monkeys and Baboon. The trees are also browsed by game. The Kei Apple will do well in a container and is popular for bonsai. The branches are also used in flower arrangements. It is successful if planted in a coastal garden or in a Highveld garden. This tree was first grown in Europe in 1870 but is now grown worldwide, in California, the Mediterranean and Australia. Plant it 2 meters from buildings and pools. The name is derived from the Greek dovyalis = spear refering to the long thorns.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm)

This small evergreen tree is relatively frost resistant and grows in the sun or semi-shade along river banks where it stabilizes the embankment. Yellow flowers in summer are replaced by orange seed which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters. Plant it near a water feature as an accent plant. It can also be used for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. This tree is protected in South Africa. The large leaves are woven to make baskets and mats and the sap is trapped for wine and beer making. The roots produce an edible gum which children enjoy and they contain tannin. The fibres from the fruit stems are used for brooms and the leaf midribs are used for hut building and to make fish kraal fences. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are nutritious and edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. It is used to make beer and wine. The spines are used in traditional medicine and the tree is used to treat pleurisy.The roots are eaten to aid healers. Birds, monkeys, elephant and baboons eat the ripe fruit. bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. It is the larval host for the Palm-tree Nightfighter Butterfly. The wood is light and of no use. The Caterpillar of the Skipper butterfly feed off the leaves. The Palm Swift bird uses the tree for nesting. Certainly a very useful tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name comes from the early Greeks who called a Date Palm a Phoenix. The 'reclinata' comes from the Latin "bend down' or 'bend back' which refers to the arching leaves.

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