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Barleria obtusa

(Bush Violet)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The pale mauve trumpet shaped flowers occur in summer and autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterfly. It is great for containers and it’s a low maintenance plant, other than an annual pruning at the end of winter. It is ideal for small gardens, but needs to be kept as a bush as I’ve seen ours scampering up the trees when left to their own devises!

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

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.

Milletia grandis

(Umzimbeet)

It occurs in Natal and the Transkei. A deciduous medium sized tree. It is a spreading tree with a good canopy. The leaves show seasonal colour changes as the new leaves are glossy yellow the colour being almost masked by the purple-brown veins and mature leaves are conventional green. The flowers are pea-shaped, deep bright lilac or purple and cover the tree in spring. The fruits are hard, velvety, brown-coloured pods, with green and gold wefts that glint in bright sunshine. It requires full sun to semi-shade and it can survive moderate drought and frost. Baboons strip and eat the bark. The hard wood is used to make furniture, walking sticks and was used for ox wagon parts. The root is used medicinally to induce sleep and dispel worries. This is the recipe: roots are ground with Croton root, add 1 part lion fat, ground lion bone and 1 part python fat and this is burnt . The seeds and roots are used for arrow and fish poison. It is also the larval host plant for the Pondo Emperor and the Orange-barred Playboy butterflies. This is my favourite tree as the new leaves are attractive, the tree is a show stopper when in flower, the velvet seed pods are lovely as are the seeds. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Charles Millet (1792-1873) was a plant collector who worked for the Dutch East India Company in China. He collected botanical samples from China, Ceylon and Java which he sent to Kew Gardens and Cambridge University.

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