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Top 5 indigenous trees to create a forest on the Highveld

If you are creating a forest where there is no protection for your young plants, you need to first plant the hardy species and wait a few years for them to become established, before planting the secondary species that are more frost tender. Cover the young trees with veld grass or frost guard cloth for the first few winters. Once they are big enough to provide protection for the secondary planting, refer to the list of "Secondary planting for a Highveld Forest".

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.

Ilex mitis

(Cape Holly)

This is a medium sized evergreen tree with a straight trunk, attractive bark and a rounded canopy which is fast growing in the sun and frost hardy. Do protect young trees for the first few years. The twigs and leaf stalks are reddish in colour. Sweetly scented, white flowers occur in spring or early summer. They are followed by fruit which ripen on the female trees in autumn, turning bright red, are densely packed along the stems. They provide bright splashes of colour, attracting many kinds of birds, like louries, doves, pigeons, bulbuls, starlings and barbets. It is a useful tree which attracts butterflies and can be used near wetlands. It is also medicinal as the bark is chewed as a purgative. Elephants eat the leaves. The leaves create a lather when rubbed together. The wood was used to make wagons, furniture, fuel and the heels of ladies high heeled shoes. Roots are non aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool.

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.

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.

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