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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.

Rotheca myricoides (was Clerodendrum myricoides)

(Blue Cats Whiskers)

This is an evergreen to deciduous small tree/shrub depending on the environment. Ours in our cold garden are deciduous. It is not fussy requiring full sun, shade or semi-shade. It produces blue to purple flowers in Spring and Summer, which are very beautiful. The edible fruit is eaten by birds and monkeys. It is a lovely, shrubby tree for an informal border and is also an ideal plant for containers as it can be pruned to any shape of choice. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is used medicinally as the powdered bark is used to treat snake bite, sterility, impotence, body swellings, chest pains, colds, bleeding gums, indigestion and headaches. it is thought to be anti microbial. The dark purple variety is called Clerodendrum ugandens. The name is derived from the Greek 'kleros' meaning chance or fate and 'dendron' meaning tree. According to legend these trees possessed medicinal properties and one took a chance on them as it varied in several species.

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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