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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

Tarchonanthus camphoratus

(Camphor Bush)

Tarchonanthus camphorates is a small evergreen tree which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. It is extremely tough and will withstand coastal, salty wind. The cream flowers occur in autumn and they attract butterflies. They are followed by attractive, strongly scented fruit which is a small seed covered by woolly white hairs which look rather like cotton wool balls. Birds use these for lining their nests. It is a fodder tree utilized by giraffe, black wildebeest, grey duiker, eland, kudu, sable antelope, nyala, impala and springbok. It’s also useful for hedging/screening, windbreak, soil erosion or as a bonsai. Do bear in mind that it has aggressive roots. The wood is termite proof and is used for musical instruments, fencing posts, fuel, boat building, basket struts and grain storage containers. The wood retains its camphor fragrance for a long time and is used as an insect repellent for clothing and foodstuff. It has medicinal properties as the leaves are made into a tea for asthma, anxiety, stomach aches and heartburn. Smoke from fresh or dried leaves is used to treat a headache and blocked sinuses. It is also used for toothache, a tonic for respiratory ailments and women use the fresh leaves to perfume their hair. The dried leaves are said to have a slightly narcotic effect when smoked. In days gone by the seeds were used to stuff pillows! Seeds, leaves and twigs are burnt to fumigate huts. This smoke is said to be good for sleeplessness, headaches and rheumatism. Crushed leaves are put into Vaseline to rub onto sore feet and for anointing the body during religious festivals. Leaves are also stuffed into hats to protect one from the mid day sun.This tough tree can withstand severe frost, drought and sea breezes. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pond. The name is derived from the Greek tarchos=funeral rite; anthos = flower; presumably from the camphorous odour of the leaves as used in incense sticks in places of worship.

Vachellia rehmanniana ( Acacia rehmanniana )

(Silky Thorn)

This deciduous, small, flat-crowned tree has young branches which are densely covered with golden, furry hairs. Later they become grey and peel off to expose a powdery, rusty-red bark. The spines are long and straight, white with a reddish-brown tip. The flowers are white balls, grouped at the ends of the young branches, seen in summer. The fruit is a straight, flat greyish-brown pod. It is both frost and drought resistant. An ideal plant for hedging/screening and it also attracts birds.It occurs naturally in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the Transvaal. Named for Matthew Augustine Joseph Rehnn (1779-1831) a German physician. 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.

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