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Aloe castanea

(Cat’s Tail Aloe, Katstertaalwyn)

The common name refers to the shape of the flowers and the Botanical name refers to Chestnut coloured nectar. It grows happily on the Witwatersrand and occurs naturally in Mpumalanga. It grows to about 2-4 meters and the orange flowers are produced in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

These occur naturally in the Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. An infusion of a few leaves in a cup of boiling water , is left to stand and then strained and drunk for coughs, colds and arthritis. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'. Propagate from seed or division.

Clivia miniata

(Bush Lily)

An evergreen groundcover which is water wise and grows in shade or semi-shade. The orange or yellow flowers occur in spring and are a favourite garden subject. The flowers attract birds and are long lasting in the vase. They do well in containers and are suitable for a shady corner in a townhouse garden. The roots are used medicinally for snake bite, fevers, childbirth, pregnancy and as a charm against evil. It is considered a good indicator of wealth, health and rains if one is growing near the homestead. They are an international collector’s item as they are hybridized to produce variegated leaves and a host of colours. The seed takes almost a year to ripen on the plant. A yellow Clivia seed is yellow when ripe, whereas the orange turn almost red. Clean the fleshy covering from the seed and this is said to strengthen ones fingernails. Rub the seeds with bleach to prevent disease and rot. Place the seed on the surface of a seed tray and cover with leaf litter. Don't over water as they they may rot otherwise they are easy to germinate. It was named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive in 1828. William Burchell first discovered them in the Eastern Cape in 1820. Miniata means the colour of red lead.

Gerbera jamesonii

(Barbeton Daisy)

This is a perennial groundcover with deeply lobed leaves covered with silky hairs. The striking flower is borne on a long stalk and the outermost petals (ray florets) may be cream, red, orange, yellow or pink, while the central flowers (disc florets) are cream. Flowering occurs in spring and autumn. It requires full sun and moderate watering. It is an ideal plant for containers. It attract birds and is much loved throughout the world. It is long lasting in a vase. Named for Traugott Gerber ( 1710-1743)

Melianthus comosus

(Small Melianthus)

An evergreen, attractive multi-stemmed shrub where all the parts of the plant produce a strong, unpleasant smell when bruised, hence the Afrikaans common name, ‘Kruidjie-roer-my-nie’. The large, grey-green, serrated leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branches. The small, nectar rich bird pollinated flowers are borne in short clusters, followed by four-winged bladder capsules which are often as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. An ideal plant for a low maintenance and water wise garden. It is suitable for mixed borders and should always be cut back after flowering. It also attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant, it attracts the Arrowhead butterflies. It is medicinally used as a poultice for sores, snake bite, swelling, painful feet and bruises. The root bark is used to make a tonic and it is used in the bath to promote sweating. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

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