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Top 5 indigenous trees that provide nectar for butterflies

Plant these trees so that you will entice butterflies into your garden.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

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.

Calpurnia aurea

(Wild Laburnum)

A small evergreen, drought and frost hardy tree is suitable for townhouse gardens, in a pot or used as a hedge. It is quite fast growing and starts flowering quite early. Pruning stimulates flowering. It can grow in almost any soil as long as it has good drainage. It produces golden-yellow flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Laburnum, which is why Calpurnia aurea is commonly described as Wild Laburnum. It blooms in mid-summer for a long period of time. Flowers are followed by fruit which are thin pods. The tree is easy to prune and maintain and can be grown is a sunny or partially sunny spot. They grow to about 3 meters. It attracts birds and butterflies and is eaten by Dassies. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees. It is a medicinal plant as it is used to treat maggot infections and crushed roots are used to treat lice. Named after the Roman poet, Calpurnius and the Latin aurea =golden, referring to the flowers. It occurs from the Eastern Cape, KZN, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.

Dais cotinifolia

(Pompon Tree)

This small, fast growing, drought and frost resistant tree has a lovely rounded, leafy crown. It can be single- or multi-stemmed, with the brown stems covered in small speckles of whitish cork. In very cold areas they are deciduous, but in warmer climates they only lose their leaves for a short time at the end of winter. The trees flower in early summer and the new flower buds look like lollypops. This is a wonderful tree for the garden as the flowers last for a month and they are useful in flower arrangements. Place a thick layer of mulch or compost around the base of the tree as this helps to keep the soil moist and cool, suppresses weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. It attracts butterflies. The bark is stripped and used for whips, binding or plaited into rope. They do not have aggressive roots so can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool and is suitable for townhouse gardens. It is fast growing, at about 1 meter a year. It prefers full sun and doesn't seem happy near the coast. An admirer who saw a tree in flower, took seed back to Holland where it was grown in 1757. It was named by one of the greatest botanists, Linnaeus.

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.

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