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Top 5 Indigenous Frost Hardy Trees

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks! An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

Euclea crispa

(Blue Guarri)

This tree is found throughout the country other than the desert on the West and northern Mpumalanga in the East. The foliage is very variable depending on the location where it occurs. It grows to 2-4 meters and will be great in a townhouse garden or as an evergreen screen. It is frost hardy, water wise and is used medicinally for stomach disorders, measles, epilepsy, diabetes, coughs and constipation. The bark and fruit is used to treat rheumatism and diabetes. It attracts birds and butterflies and is a good fodder tree as the bark and leaves are browsed by black rhino. The fruit is eaten by mongoose, antelope, baboon and monkeys. The branches are used to fight fires. The roots produce a brown dye and it makes an excellent bonsai. Plant it about 3 meters from buildings and pools.

Leucosidea sericea

(Ouhout)

Ouhout. Troutwood is a perfect name as it occurs along rivers where trout are found. The “Ouhout” refers to the bark which looks old even at a young age. It grows to about 4 meters, is evergreen and is fast growing if it has enough water. It is useful for nesting and attracts butterflies and insects. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not experienced that.The margins of the leaflets are deeply serrated. The crushed leaves have a strong herb-like smell. The flowers are greenish-yellow in colour, star-shaped, and grow in spikes at the ends of young shoots in spring. The fruits are nut-like. It usually grows in damp conditions, on deep, sandy or clay or rocky soil. It is frost resistant and it is ideal to use as a nurse tree to protect less frost hardy plants in winter. The tree is browsed and the wood burns slowly. It is also used to start fires. Useful used as fencing poles. It is used medicinally as the ground leaf paste is used for eye problems, a vermifuge and as a protective charm to protect people in the home. The name is derived from the Greek leukos=white; idea= appearance; referring to the overall hairiness of the leaves.

Rhamnus prinoides

(Dogwood)

Grows in most parts of the country to 4-6meters. It makes a rounded, evergreen screen which is attractive with its glossy green leaves which are browsed by game. The leaves are used in beer and wine making. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish, blooming between November and January, in small clusters. They are loved by the bees, the Forest-king butterfly and other insects which attract the insect eating birds. The fruits are about the size of a pea (about 5 mm in diameter), roundish and clearly divided into three compartments. They appear between December and June. They are fleshy and green, turning red and then purple as they ripen. The fruit is loved by many bird species like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins, so it's a great addition to a bird garden. The wood is white to yellow, often streaked with brown, pink, red or green and is hard and heavy. It is too small to be generally useful, although walkingsticks may be made of it. It is tough and frost resistant and grows well in moist soils. It is evergreen and is good for small gardens and hedges, especially in cold areas. It is widely used as a protective charm to ward off lightning and evil influences from homes and crops and to bring luck in hunting. It is also used medicinally to cleanse the blood, to treat pneumonia, rheumatism, sprains, skin complaints, respiratory infections, stomach ache, and as a gargle. It has non aggressive roots and will grow well in containers. Plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Celtic ram, and later the Greek rhamnos= tuft of branches.

Searsia lancea (Rhus lancea)

(Karee)

This tree has recently changed its name from Rhus lancea. It is wide spread and is only missing from Kwazulu Natal. It grows to 5-10meters and makes a lovely evergreen shade tree. it is in the top 5 frost and drought hardy trees. Our grandsons loved climbing these trees when they were little as they branch low down if left to their own devices. It attracts birds and butterflies and the fruit is enjoyed by our staff, although it is sour and it is traditionally also used to make mead or tea. It is also eaten by birds lie bulbuls and the fallen fruit is eaten by guineafowl and francolins. The leaves produce a brown dye and are also eaten by game like kudu, roan and sable so it’s a good fodder tree on a game farm. This tree indicates surface or underground water and it does not have aggressive roots. The wood is used as fencing posts as it is termite proof. The bark is used for tanning. It is protected in the Northern Cape and the Jacobsdal area in the Free State. Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pond. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

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