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Top 5 Indigenous Plants that flower in Winter

Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Carpobrotus edulis

(Sour Fig)

This evergreen groundcover is fast growing and occurs on the sand dunes at the sea. This is fortunate as the leaves are used medicinally to treat Blue Bottle Stings and sunburn. It is water wise, frost resistant and is sun loving. The pink flowers open in summer and these attract insect eating birds. Fruits are eaten raw or processed into jam or used in oriental cooking. As early as 1815 it was made into jam and is still considered to be the finest of indigenous preserves. To make the jam take 500 g of very ripe fruit and peel them before leaving them on a cake rack overnight. Put them into a pot and boil until they are soft. Remove from the heat and drain. Make a syrup using 500 g sugar and 500 ml of water, 12 mm of lemon juice and salt along with the fruit. Boil till thick and the fruit are dark red colour. Bottle and enjoy. It is often planted to retain soil on steep banks as it roots as it creeps along the ground.There are numerous medicinal uses. It is used as an enema for children, those with allergies or diabetes. The leaf juice is astringent and antiseptic and is used as a gargle for sore throats as well as diphtheria, thrush, digestion, dysentery, bruises, scrapes, cuts, sunburn and ringworm. Fruit infusions are used during pregnancy to ease child birth. The leaf sap is put on a newborn's head to make the child nimble and strong. It was used as a remedy for TB mixing equal quantities of honey, sour fig leaf sap and olive oil. This was diluted in water and taken 3 times a day. The honey made from Carpobrotus pollen has a unique flavour. In 1700, plants were taken to the UK and Europe and they are now growing on the south coast of England and the Mediteranean. It is waterwise. The name comes from the Greek Karphos=fruit and brotos=edible.

Cyrtanthus mackenii

(Ifafa Lilly)

This deciduous groundcover is frost resistant and fast growing. It was first discovered on the banks of the Ifafa River near Port Shepstone, hence the common name.It is very versatile as it grows in the sun or semi-shade and prefers a moist environment. However don't over water when they have died down in the winter. There are various colour forms pink , white, yellow or orange flowers that occur in winter. It is traditionally used as a protective charm. It is lovely in small gardens so plant it in a spot where you will enjoy the flowers in winter. Would be lovely in a pot and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name is derived from Greek 'kyrtoma'=curved and 'kanthos'= flower referring to the curved, tubular flower.

Felicia amelloides

(Blue Felicia)

A lovely shade of blue. There are very few blue indigenous flowers compared to the other colours. There is also a white form. They are fast growing, frost and drought hardy and will do well in full sun or semi shade. They attract the insect and nectar feeding birds as well as butterflies. It’s a great ground cover for a small garden, in pots or hanging baskets. Mass planted it’s stunning. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Tulbaghia simmleri (Tulbaghia fragrans)

(Fragrant Wild Garlic)

This very pretty, fragrant mauve or white flower is on a 25 cm spike and opens in winter. It is cheerful to have one in your garden during the brown, dry Highveld winter. The leaves are wider than the Tulbaghia violacea and not as pungent. They are also edible and the flowers are successfully used in a vase. It grows best in the semi shade and is used medicinally for fevers, cold, asthma and TB. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him. This particular Tulbaghia is named after Paul Simmler who was a successful Chief Gardener in Geneva.

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