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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.

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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