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Top 5 plants that Blues butterflies prefer

Ficus sur

(Broom Cluster Fig)

An evergreen tree with a smooth and almost white bark. The autumn leaves can be showy but the spring flush is often spectacular as the new leaves are a brilliant red, changing to bronze. They sprout from the trunk or main branches. The leaves are eaten by cattle, elephant, kudu, blue duiker and nyala. They are also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The fallen fruit is also enjoyed by bushpigs. It tolerates slight frost and it needs full sun and lots of water. The fruits are edible. It is an excellent shade tree and is a magnet for birds and bats when the fruits are ripe. Even the Puffback Shrike enjoys the fruit. At least 3 butterfly species eat the leaves including the Fig Tree Blue. This tree is pollinated by a wasp. It will also thrive in a boggy spot provided that some of the roots are not in waterlogged soil. The roots are aggressive so don't plant it in a small garden or near buildings. It is not frost resistant. It certainly is a useful tree as the fruits are made into jam, the wood is used for fire by friction, drum making and mortars for grinding flour. Inner bark is used for rope making. It is also medicinal as the milky latex is used to treat lung and throat problems while the roots are used to expel the placenta of cows. The bark is also said to increase milk production in lactation mothers. The latex is also used to treat painful eyes and cataracts. A root infusion is taken by both men and women for infertility and to prevent an abortion. The bark is used for skin rashes and constipation. It is fast growing and prefers to be planted in the shade. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

Ficus ingens

(Red-Leaved Rock Fig)

This is an evergreen tree which is briefly deciduous and grows to 10 m, with a rounded or spreading crown and with a spread of up to 30 m wide. All the parts have milky latex which is visible when a leaf is broken. The bark is grey, smooth and becomes cracked in older specimens.The heart-shaped or lanceolate, dull green leaves are hairless and leathery, with conspicuous yellow veins running parallel from the midrib. New leaves are coppery or reddish. It has an aggressive and invasive root system and should therefore not be planted near buildings, swimming pools, drainage or sewerage systems. It is popular as a container plant and as a bonsai. Because it is such a lovely shade tree and is fast growing, it is suitable for large gardens. The leaves are reportedly toxic but the new leaves are eaten by kudu, nyala and grey duiker. The fruit is edible but not always as palatable as Ficus carica, although mammals like dassies, monkeys, squirrels baboons and bushbabies eat the fruit while fallen fruit is eaten by nyala, bushpig, waterhog, suni and grey duiker. Pigeons, parrots, louries, starlings, barbets and bulbuls enjoy the fruit. It is the larval host plant for the Common Fig-tree Blue and the Lesser Fig-tree Blue butterflies. It is pollinated by a wasp. Extracts of the bark are administered to cows with a low milk production. The latex is used as a substitute disinfectant for iodine. It is medicinal as the bark decoction is used for anemia.The wood is strong and is used for timber on the farms. It is fast growing but needs to be protected from the frost when young. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

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 pompom 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. This tree has pairs of straight thorns.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, dysentery, diarrhoea, loss of blood 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.

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.

Buddleja auriculata

(Weeping Sage)

A small evergreen tree that is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It produces masses of fragrant cream flowers in autumn. This is a great tree for a bird garden as it attracts the insect, fruit and nectar eaters. It also attracts butterflies and is a host plant for moths. It is a tree with many uses from informal hedging or screening, graceful if planted near a pond and would be perfect for a small garden. The leaves are used as a tea. Named for Adam Buddle 1660-1715 an English amateur botanist, vicar and plant collector. He created Britain's first herbarium.

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