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Top 5 indigenous shrubs that are drought resistant.

These shrubs are drought resistant and will not need much water after they have established themselves.

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.

Barleria obtusa

(Bush Violet)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The pale mauve trumpet shaped flowers occur in summer and autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterfly. It is great for containers and it’s a low maintenance plant, other than an annual pruning at the end of winter. It is ideal for small gardens, but needs to be kept as a bush as I’ve seen ours scampering up the trees when left to their own devises!

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

(Bush Tick Berry)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The leaves are browsed by game like the blue duiker and other antelope. The yellow flowers open in autumn and attract insect and fruit eating birds. It is the larval host to several moth and butterfly species like the Beaufort, Mooi River, Natal, Water and Common Opals and the delightfully named Jitterbug Daisy Copper. It is useful for informal hedging, screening and windbreaks. Withstands salt laden winds at the coast so is perfect to stabilize the dunes and to plant in a coastal garden.The fruits have a juicy, nutty flavour and are eaten by children, monkeys and birds and the juice of the fruit is used medicinally to strengthen the blood, for impotence, intestinal ailments, pimples and to treat fevers. The fruit is also added to porridge to give strength. The berries can be made into a jam or a cordial. The leaves are used as an enema for fevers. Leaves are considered to be toxic to stock. The leaves were also burnt and the ash was used to make soap. The ash is also added to water and left to steep over night, this is then splashed onto mildew, daily for 4 days. It was introduced to Australia where it has spread like wild fire and has now become one of their worst weeds.

Plumbago auriculata

(Cape Leadwort)

An old faithful favourite amongst gardeners and landscapers. It is dependable, evergreen, drought hardy and fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and look out for the blue flowers in summer. These will attract butterflies and birds, which also use the bush as nesting sites. The flowers are edible and look pretty in a fruit salad or floating in a cooldrink. It responds well to pruning and if left to its own devices, it will scamper up to the tree tops. The roots and the leaves are used medicinally for headaches and the root bark is used as a bathing lotion to heal matrimonial discord. It is also magical and is said to heal fractures, and confuse enemies. Bundles of twigs are tied up into the roof rafters to ward off evil and prevent lightning. Root infusions dispel bad dreams and malaria and powdered root is put on warts and used as a snuff for headaches and fractures. A fire is made from the plant and the cattle and sheep are led through the smoke as this keeps them together and protects and defends them. This is the larval host plant to the Common Blue and the Short-toothed Blue butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin plumbum=lead; ago=resemblance, connection. The roots contain a fatty, lead coloured dye.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

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