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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.

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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