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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.

Mentha longifolia

(Wild Spearmint)

An evergreen, fast-growing, perennial herb that creeps along the ground and spreads rapidly. It can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions, but is usually between 0.5-1 m high and even shorter in dry conditions. The small flowers of Mentha longifolia are crowded into spikes at the tip of the stems. This wild mint flowers throughout the summer and the flowers are white and mauve. They are heavy feeders and water lovers. Mint grows in semi-shade and full sun. They do well in pots where they are contained. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, cystitis, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Wild mint leaves have been used topically to treat wounds and swollen glands. Some farmers make a bath of mint "tea" to wash their dogs to rid them of fleas. It can be used in the kitchen as a substitute for the exotic mints. I make a glass jug of cold mint tea which is refreshing on hot summer days. It is the larval host plant of the Bush Bronze and the Tsomo Blue butterflies.Mentha is the Latin name for mint from the nymph Minthie, mistress of Pluto, daughter of Cocytus, who was turned into mint by the jealous Proserpine.

Podalyria calyptrate

(Sweetpea Bush)

This a sturdy, fast-growing, evergreen, well-branched shrub of 2-3 m or a small tree of 4-5 m. The leaves are simple, alternate and oval or egg-shaped and up to 25 mm wide, green-grey in colour and sparsely covered with silky white hairs on the upper and lower surfaces that give the leaves a silvery sheen. Young growth is velvety. The flowers are large, 25 mm or more across, very showy, mauve-pink to pink and most have a white spot in the centre. Flowers are borne in winter-spring-early summer. The flowers are followed by hard, inflated, furry brown pods. They are found on the bushes from about October until January. The pods split to release several small seeds. It is quick and easy to grow. It does best in well-drained, well-composted, acidic soil and in summer rainfall areas it must be watered well in autumn and winter. It does not thrive in alkaline soils. It is wind-tolerant and drought tolerant. It looks lovely when planted in a mixed border. Attracts birds and butterflies. This plant occurs in the south-western Cape and will not cope with the Highveld's frosty winters. This plant occurs in the The name is derived from the Latin podiliriuis and the Greek Podaleirios, son of the god of healing..

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