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Top 5 indigenous trees that are waterwise and drought resistant

Water is a valuable resource and we need to use it sparingly. This does not prevent you from having a wonderful garden with trees to provide shade, interest and food for the birds and butterflies. If you water deeply once a week, you encourage the roots to grow down and not rely on surface water. We only ever watered our trees for the first three months after planting. Granted we only planted Highveld trees.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Buddleja saligna

(False Olive)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant, drought resistant, fast growing in the sun and is one of our most versatile trees. It has fragrant white flowers in spring which attract birds, bees and butterflies. It is great for formal pruned hedges as it responds well to pruning or for informal hedging/screening. It has non-aggressive roots which makes it most attractive for small gardens, containers and bonsai. Plant 3 meters from buildings. It is medicinal as the leaves are used for coughs and colds and the roots are used as a purgative. The wood is used for fencing posts, small furniture and fire wood. The photo of the tree with a spiral stem was purposefully grown like that and trained over wire as a sapling. Named for Adam Buddle 1660-1715 an English amateur botanist, vicar and plant collector. He created Britain's first herbarium.

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.

Olea europaea subsp. africana

(Wild Olive)

This medium sized, evergreen tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is neatly shaped and has a dense spreading crown. The white/green flowers open in summer and they attract bees. The flowers are replaced with edible, purple berries which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like starlings, pigeons, parrots and louries. They are also enjoyed by people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, and warthogs. Useful for nesting sites. The leaves are browsed by game and stock and is a fodder tree for mammals. They attract butterflies. It is useful as a formal, pruned hedge or an informal hedge/screen. Very popular as a bonsai subject. They sometimes have aggressive roots so plant 4 meters from a building or a pool. It is protected in the North West Province, the Cape and the Free State. There are numerous medicinal uses for eye lotions, tonics for high blood pressure, kidney ailments and sore throats. Wild Olive tonic is available commercially and is used to treat colds and to build the immune system. It is believed that inhaling the smoke from a Wild Olive fire will cure a hangover. Magical uses are to protect against lightening, by putting a branch in an open doorway. The beautiful golden brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments and fencing posts. As the wood is strong and durable, it is used for walking sticks, knobkieries and spear handles. It grows along rivers and is useful to stabilize the soil. A must for a bird garden! This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek elaia and the latin olea = classical latin name for the olive.

Ziziphus mucronata

(Buffalo Thorn)

This medium sized, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It has non aggressive roots, so you can plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. This is a great bird garden tree as it attracts the insect, fruit and nectar eaters as well as being used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Black Pie, Dotted Blue, Hinza Blue and the White Pie butterflies. Useful if used as an informal hedge/screen or as a thorny security barrier. Game farmers need to plant his important fodder tree as it is browsed by giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, wildebeest, nyala, impala, klipspringer, springbok, grysbok, steenbok, dik-dik and warthog while the fruit is eaten by baboons, monkeys and warthog. The fruit is highly nutritious and are also enjoyed by guineafowl, francolins, parrots, louries and coucal. It is protected in the Free State. The raw fruit is edible, or it can be cooked into a porridge or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. It is also used to brew beer. Their nutritious leaves are cooked as spinach and the wood is useful for fuel, hammer handles, and spoons. Saplings are made into whips by removing the bark from the sapling.It is an important medicinal tree as the bark infusions are used for a cough,respiratory ailments and to purify the complexion. Root decoctions are used for pain, toothache, infertility, purification and lumbago. Leaves and shoots are used as a gargle for measles and scarlet fever. The flowers are used as a fish poison. It has many magical uses as the trees are said to ward off lightening and those sitting under a tree during a lightening storm will be safe. Branches are placed on the graves of chiefs to protect them. The branches are also used for cattle kraals and in rituals to return the spirit of the dead to their hometown. The wood is used to carve bowls and spoons and the thin branches are used for fencing posts, roof struts, grain mortars and gates. The zig zag shaped young branches epitomize one’s path through life which is both good and bad. The leaves are 3 veined to remind us that our relationships with God, the environment and our fellow man needs to be in balance. The forward pointing thorns remind us to reach for our goals and the re-curved ones remind us to look back and reflect on where we have come from. The name is derived from the Arabic zizouf= the name for the lotus or 'jujube' tree. The tree has dark red edible fruit from which the Victorian sweet, 'jujube' was made. The latin 'mucro' means sharp point and refers to the thorns.

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