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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.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. 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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