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Centella asiatica

(Pennywort||Waterhearts)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 15cm high and spreads. It produces cream flowers in summer and should be planted in sun, shade or semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for wetlands as it thrives in moist soil and will be suitable for containers where it will scamper over the edge. It is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, skin ailments like oily skin, blemishes, coarse open pores, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins and thread veins, fever, diuretic, purgative, TB, leprosy, syphilis and to aid the memory. It is excellent for treating sunburn and gives aging skin back its elasticity. In Australia one or two leaves is chopped into a salad and eaten daily. This is said to be the right dose to aid the memory as large amounts eaten at a sitting are said to have a narcotic effect however in South Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach. It is the larval host for the Uranus Opal butterfly and one moth specie. A face cream can be made by simmering half a cup of aqueous cream with half a cup of finely chopped leaves in a double boiler for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil. Fill a container and enjoy the benefits. It can also be made into a lotion by boiling 3 liters of water with 3 cups of leaves for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. This can be used for aching legs, varicose veins, swellings, infections and rashes. Cheap as chips and worth a try. It was recorded in the French pharmacopoeia in 1884 and is used in Hindu medicine, Ayurvedic medicine in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is reported to be antibacterial, antifungal, anti-allergic and hypotensive. Laboratory studies have found it to be mildly tranquillising, anti-stress and anti-anxiety.The name comes from the Greek kentron=a spur or sharp point and ella=diminutive referring to the small pointed styles.

Panicum maximum

(Guinea Grass)

This perennial, tufted grass has a short, creeping rhizome . The stems of this robust grass can reach a height of up to 2 m. A bent stems touching the ground will root and produce a new plant. The leaf is covered in fine hairs. It remains green until late into winter. Spikelets are green to purple and flowering occurs from November to July. It prefers fertile soil and is well adapted to a wide variety of conditions. It grows especially well in shaded, damp areas under trees and shrubs and is often seen along rivers. It is most frequently found in open woodland, but also grows in parts of Mixed and Sour Bushveld. It is widely cultivated as pasture and is especially used to make good quality hay. If it receives adequate water, it grows rapidly and occurs in abundance in veld that is in a good condition. It prefers shade and damp areas and will do well under trees and shrubs. Water regularly. It can be planted successfully in plant containers around the home to attract seed-eating birds like the Bronze mannikin. It is the larval host plant for the Eyed Bush Brown and the Black-Banded Swift butterflies. The name is derived from the latin panis = bread as the seed is used in bread making.

Phragmites australis

(Common Reed)

This evergreen reed grows to about 3 meters tall and is found in wetlands and dams. It is frost resistant and has a multitude of uses. Flowers are produced from December to June. It plays very important role in protecting the soil from erosion, filters water and offers shelter to many bird species and other animals. It is even used to make paper, baskets and is used in the chemical industry. They are tied together and used to make walls for houses. The rhizomes are edible and the hollow stems are used for pipes and musical instruments. The seeds are used to make ointment for burns. Weavers use these to build their nests on. The Bushmen of the Kalahari make their arrow shafts from this plant. The name is derived from the Greek phragmites =growing in hedges, from phragma = a fence, hedge, from phrassein = to enclose.

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