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Aristida junciformis

(Wire grass, Bristle grass)

This grass is used extensively by landscapers as it is undemanding and will grow in any soil type, is frost hardy, fast growing and will even grow in coastal gardens. It grows in the full sun and is waterwise. It forms clumps and has a very graceful habit. It is very pretty when in flower during the summer. It is a pioneer grass and is useful for preventing soil erosion. It is not suitable for grazing as it's unpalatable.It is used for thatching and making brooms.

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!

Cerototheca triloba

(Wild Foxglove)

This deciduous shrub grows to 1m high and is frost resistant, drought resistant and requires sun. It produces mauve flowers in summer which attract butterflies and bees. It also has medicinal properties as it is used as an abortifacient.

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.

Geranium incanum

(Lace Leaf Geranium)

An evergreen groundcover that grows about 0.3 x 0.3 .The carpet geranium is an ideal garden plant. It spreads and forms a dense carpet approximately 300mm thick and flowers almost all year round with a peak during the summer months. It has finely divided leaves which give it a soft texture in the garden. The leaves are used to make a tea which is non addictive as it contains no caffeine or tannin. It is used to relieve certain complaints such as bladder infections, colic, dysentery, venereal diseases, back pain, low blood pressure,colic. diarrhea and conditions relating to menstruation. A stronger brew using a quarter of a cup of leaves in 1 cup of boiling water which is then left to steep for a half an hour, can be drunk twice a day for two weeks to expel intestinal worms. The same brew can be used to treat pets for worms by adding it to their food or drinking water. It is an ideal plant for containers. It attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant it attracts the Dickson's Geranium bronze, Common Geranium bronze, Water bronze, Eyed Pansy and the Striped Policeman butterflies. Margaret Roberts crystallized the flowers to place on cakes in the same way as one would do with violets! The edible flowers look pretty in a salad. The name is derived from the Greek geranos=a crane. The seed pod resembles a crane. Incanum means 'with silvery-grey flush on the leaves.'

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.

Justicia capensis

(Businessmans Bush)

An evergreen shrub that grows to about 1m high and 1m wide. It is very fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi-shade. It produces marvelous mauve flowers in Summer and they attracts butterflies. It is traditionally used to attract business, or as a wash to improve one's chances of gaining employment and as a love charm. Named for James Justice ( 1698-1763) a horticulturist and writer. He introduced many new plants to Scotland and spent vast sums importing roots, seeds and trees. His passion was collecting tulips. His buying of plants brought him financial ruin and he had to sell his house and his garden. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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.

Mundulea sericea

(Cork Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, happy in the sun and produces mauve/purple flowers in summer. It occurs in northern Namibia, , Botswana, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. It attracts birds - insect eaters, nectar eaters and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland and impala. It has several uses as the twigs are used as toothbrushes, the bark is used as an insecticide and fish poison and the leaves are used to bleach hair. It is also used medicinally as the bark is used as an emetic to treat poisoning and the roots are used for fertility. It is an ideal tree for small gardens, particularly as the beautiful bark has a cork-like appearance, hence the common name. It will do well in pots if they are well drained and is lovely as a bonsai. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool. This is the larval host plant for 2 moth species as well as the Natal Bar, Common Blue and the Dusky Blue butterflies.

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..

Polygala fruticosa

(Heart-Leaved Polygala)

This is a neat, evergreen rounded shrub up to 1 m tall. The young leaves of this indigenous evergreen are tinged with purple, the shade echoed by the deep purple, winged flowers. Peak displays of flowers occur from spring to early summer, giving an unequalled show. It also produces a scattering of blooms throughout the year. Bees are particularly attracted to the nectar that the flowers produce and are the main pollinators. Seeds are enclosed in papery, flattened capsules that remain on the bush for quite some time during and after flowering. This hardy plant requires no special care. Good, enriched soil, full sun or semi-shade and plenty of water, will ensure rapid, healthy growth. It has excellent waterwise properties, and once established it will tolerate fairly heavy drought. Perfect as it is waterwise garden. It attracts birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek poly=much and gala = milk as it is believed that cows that eat this plant produce more milk. Fruticosa means shrubby.

Polygala myrtifolia

(September Bush)

This attractive, small, evergreen shrub is able to adapt to most gardens as it is drought and frost resistant. A tough shrub suitable for coastal gardens, fynbos gardens, low maintenance and water-wise gardens. In a new garden it is excellent as a fast growing windbreak or a formal hedge.It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Its growth is a bit more lax, producing fewer flowers in the shade, but it grows happily in the difficult pockets that change from full sun to semi-shade with the seasons. It blooms throughout the year with a peak in spring ( August to October) when the plants flower profusely. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees.The fruit is a small, winged capsule which is enjoyed by doves. It is good for containers as its roots are non aggressive and it attracts butterflies like the Pea Blue..It is medicinal as the leaves are made into a poultice to treat gout.

Polygala virgata

(Purple Broom)

This erect, slender, eye catching, evergreen shrub grows to a height of 1,5 to 2,5 m. A single stem is formed at the base of the plant and slender hairless branches occur at the top. It is fast growing, hardy and can be grown in any garden in South Africa. Once established in the garden it will tolerate drought, wind and some frost. With its beautiful sprays of flowers it will be an accent plant in a shrubby garden or rockery. Planted in good enriched soil in a sunny or semi-shade position in the garden. The purple tuft of hairs is a distinctive characteristic to identify all Polygalas. Peak flowering time is from September to February. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and the seed is small, black and oval shaped.Simple leaves are alternately arranged on younger branches and usually drops before flowering. The leaves are narrow in shape, dark green with a velvety texture and 10 mm in length. It grows naturally on bushy hillsides and along stream banks. It grows in sandstone, clay or limestone slopes and along forest margins. The leaves and stems were traditionally prepared and used as blood purifiers. It is anti viral and is used to treat Herpes simplex. The plant is grazed when in reach of stock and game. The beautiful flowering sprays can be used in a vase. The shrub is a buzz with bees, insects and bumblebees which are attracted to the bright purple magenta flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Long-tailed Blue butterfly.

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