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Plectranthus neochilus

(Lobster Flower)

An evergreen perennial, aromatic, succulent herb, which grows to 500 mm high and 600 mm wide. The deep blue and purple flowers are borne from September to April. This Plectranthus has succulent, grey-green leaves, which form an attractive ground cover even when the plant is not in flower. They are used to scare away snakes from human dwellings (perhaps because of their unpleasant aromatic smell) and other documented reports indicate that these plants can be used effectively as an air purifier. Plants perform exceptionally well as ground covers in light shade and full sun. Stems root easily and the plant spreads, forming a tidy clump. The plant is often used in the landscaping of difficult sites. It may look a little stressed in very dry conditions, but bounces back when it receives some water. It is drought resistant. The plant prefers loam to sandy soil with good drainage and has relatively low water requirements. It is an ideal plant for containers and rockeries. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Garden Inspector, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers. Neochilus means new lipped which refers to the shape of the flower.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor

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