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Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe, Kransaalwyn)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

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.

Leonotis leonurus

(Wild Dagga)

Another drought hardy, evergreen shrub that is very dependable. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in our grasslands. It is fast growing and there are yellow, orange or white flowering forms. The flowers are good for the vase but you do want to leave many on the bushes as they attract the sunbirds and the insect eaters. They are also good for a butterfly garden as they are the larval host for the Bush Bronze butterfly. They flower in autumn and will need cutting back at the end of winter. A must for a bird garden as once you get to recognize the sunbirds chirping, you will be very pleased that you are making them happy. It has been admired since 1652 and was growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 1712. It is called Wild Dagga as the Khoi smoked the dried leaves and it was said to be narcotic. It is considered to be a miracle plant as it is used medicinally to reduce blood pressure, for arthritis, sores that will not heal, athletes foot and nits. The leaves are used for headaches, coughs, colds, convulsions, weak joints, cataracts, hemorrhoids, a diuretic and for obesity. The roots are used for snake bite and to keep snakes away. The flowers are used for asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest problems, bronchitis, tapeworm, TB, jaundice, skin diseases, muscular cramps, bee and scorpion stings. A wealth of uses. It is now planted in Australia. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

Lessertia frutescens was Sutherlandia frutescens

(Cancer Bush)

This is an evergreen shrub of 1,25m x 1m which is frost resistant and drought resistant. It is very fast growing and easy to grow. It will tolerate all soil types and requires very little water. The bright orange-red sweet pea shaped flowers open in spring to summer and it is one of the most multi purpose and useful of South African medicinal plants. The Khoi and the San people living in the Cape were the first to use this plant medicinally. It's common name indicates is use in cancer treatment. A tea is made from the flowers, pods and leaves for treating intestinal cancer. It is also made into a wash for sores, and drunk to reduce fevers, treat chicken pox and blisters. The botanist Thunberm wrote in 1772 that a decoction of the roots and leaves is used as an eye wash. It can also be taken for flu, liver problems, bladder ailments, rheumatism, diarrhoea, backache, as a daily tonic and stomach problems. The leaves, stems and fruit capsules can be boiled and the water added to the bath to bring down fevers and side effects of flu. It should not be used by pregnant women as it has been known to cause abortions. It also attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Brown Playboy and the Lucerne Blue butterflies. Can take frost and is grown outdoors in England. The leaves and seeds are smoked as a dagga substitute. Named for Jules Paul Benjamine Delessert ( 1773-1847 ) a French banker, industrialist, philanthropist and botanist. with a notable herbarium and botanical library and he was an entrepreneur. He was made a baron by Napoleon. The old name of Sutherlandia came from James Sutherland (1639-1719) a Scottish botanist and the first superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh. In 1683 he published a book which led to his doctorate and professorship. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby way'.

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'.

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. 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.

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