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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.

Philenoptera violacea (Lonchocarpus capassa)

(Apple-Leaf)

Occurs in northern Namibia, Botswana, Transvaal, Swaziland and northern Natal. This is a protected tree and is medium sized growing to 15 m. It is semi deciduous and has grey bark which oozes red when cut. The mauve, sweetpea-like, scented flowers are a good source of nectar and pollen for the bees and they open in summer and are replaced by fruit which consists of a flat pod which hangs from the tree for many months. It is found from the Eastern Cape , KZN, Mpumalanga and Limpopo so is definitely frost tender, although it is drought hardy. It is often an indicator of underground water. The bark has a distinct grey, mottled appearance. The wood is hard, yellowish and is used for furniture, carvings, mealie stumpers and dug out canoes. It burns too fast so is not used for firewood. The leaves are grey-green above and pale grey below. A nymph sucks the sap and a water secretion drips from the tree resulting in its common name of "Rain tree". The leaves are browsed by giraffe and elephant and browsers eat the fallen leaves at the end of winter so it is useful for a game farm. They are also eaten by humans as spinach in times of need. It is used medicinally as bark infusions treat diarrhea, intestinal problems, colds, snake bite and as a remedy for hookworm. Smoke from a burning root is inhaled to treat a cold. It is said to be a lucky charm and is used to resolve disputes. The roots and bark are highly toxic and are cut into pieces, thrown into water to paralyse fish so it is used as fish poison. The fish float to the surface and are then netted and remain edible. There is a belief that bad luck comes to those who cut down the tree. It is the larval host plant to the Striped Policeman and the Large Blue Emperor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek Lonche=lance; karpos=fruit; tree with lance shaped fruit; the pod is linear-oglong, flat, membranous or leathery.

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..

Tulbaghia simmleri (Tulbaghia fragrans)

(Fragrant Wild Garlic)

This very pretty, fragrant mauve or white flower is on a 25 cm spike and opens in winter. It is cheerful to have one in your garden during the brown, dry Highveld winter. The leaves are wider than the Tulbaghia violacea and not as pungent. They are also edible and the flowers are successfully used in a vase. It grows best in the semi shade and is used medicinally for fevers, cold, asthma and TB. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him. This particular Tulbaghia is named after Paul Simmler who was a successful Chief Gardener in Geneva.

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