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Boophane disticha

(Tumbleweed)

The Afrikaans common name is Seeroogblom as the pollen can cause red eyes or a headache. This bulb is deciduous in winter and grows to 1m x 1m so it is frost resistant. It is also water wise as it is drought resistant, so don't over water as they will rot. They grow in our grasslands in the full sun and produce stunning red flowers in Spring. It can be used for containers where the moles won’t get at them. When not in flower the twisted, fan shaped leaves are distinctive. Disticha refers to this leaf arrangement. After flowering the seed stalk dries and breaks away and the seeds are distributed as it tumbles along. hence the common name. It is poisonous and is used as an arrow poison but it is also used medicinally. The bulb is used for headaches, sharp chest pains and bladder pains. The bulb scales are used to fill the holes after ear piercing, dressing wounds, for boils and abscesses. They are also stuffed into mattresses to cure hysteria and sleeplessness. The leaves are used to check bleeding and skin diseases like rashes, wounds, swelling. It causes hallucinations when taken to arouse the spirits. This is a protected plant in South Africa. It is planted as a protective charm as it is believed to have magical powers to ward off evil, poisoning the enemy, to keep the family free of evil, bring on rain and protect the homestead. The word Boophane means 'ox-slaughter' referring to the poisonous bulb. Inhaling the pollen or even the scent of the flower can result in a headache. Many deaths have been recorded in Southern Africa.

Combretum bracteosum

(Hiccup Nut)

The hiccup nut is a usually a shrub or small tree which scrambles into nearby vegetation. It grows up to between 2 and 4 m high, although if it has support from other trees it can reach up to 8 m. It spreads to between 4 and 5 m wide. The showy, scented flowers are bright red but differ from those of other Combetum in that the petals are obvious and are responsible for most of the colour. Flowering occurs in spring, followed by the edible fruit which is not at all like the other Combretums as it is nut shaped. Hence the common name. It is not known whether the nuts cause or cure hiccups. The nuts are edible once roasted. It likes a warm summer with a moderate of high rainfall. It should be planted in a full sun or semi-shade and it an ideal plant for screening and hedging. It also attracts birds and Striped Policeman and the Spotted Sailor butterflies and a moth specie as this is their larval host.

Erythrina lysistemon

(Common Coral Tree)

Occurs on the Witwatersrand, Swaziland, Transkei and Natal. It is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers in winter-spring. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees. The red flowers are show stoppers and are loved by nectar feeding birds and bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. Monkeys eat the flower buds. The roots are aggressive therefore plant it 6 meters from buildings, pools and roads. Plant it in full sun and be aware that it is frost sensitive when young so do protect them from frost. This tree is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The bark is medicinal for toothache, to treat wounds, arthritis, earache and strips of the bark are used to tie bundles of herbs. Chiefs use the bark mixed with the root of the Cussonia as a purifying emetic. A branch is planted on the deceased's grave as this is said to protect the person in the afterlife. There are trials underway as the seed is said to be a painkiller. The leaves are used to ease the healing of sores, or boiled in water to make ear drops. The fresh leaves are also placed in the shoes to treat tired feet and cracked heels. The leaves are browsed by Black Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Nyala, and Klipspringer, so it's great for a game farm. The seeds are eaten by Cape Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots. The wood is prone to wood-borer so the woodpeckers enjoy them.The roots are eaten by bushpigs and porcupines. The Lucky Bean seeds are put into wallets to bring luck. Branches can be cut and planted as living fence poles. Drought resistant. This is a popular bonsai subject. We planted one next to a Dombeya rotudifolia and as they flower simultaneously in early spring, it is a joy to behold! The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

Lampranthus sp

(Vygies)

A valuable addition to any garden as their iridescent flowers are seen in spring and summer. Their striking colours are a highlight after the drab winter garden when only the Aloes are in flower. They are all drought resistant and creep along the ground creating a carpet of striking colour. They attract butterflies and are useful in rockeries, along a path or in a hanging basket. They are frost resistant and fast growing. The leaves vary from dull ,dusty green to a bright, light green. The name is derived from the Greek lampros = bright, shining; anthos = flower; referring to the light reflecting off the glossy petals.

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.

Melianthus major

(Giant Honey Flower)

This evergreen shrub grows to about 2.5m high and 3.5 wide. It is an easy garden plant and is grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. It grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth. The name comes from 2 Greek words meaning honey flower.The flowers produce nectar which attracts bees, wasps, sunbirds and the Arrowhead butterflies. It is also the host plant for 1 moth specie. Cut it back after flowering to encourage new growth. Although the leaves are toxic they are used medicinally as a topical aid for pain, aches, rheumatism and backache. A gargle is used for sore throats and the liquid is used on snakebites. Warmed leaves can be bound over boils and abscesses to bring them to a head. Four leaves boiled in a big pot of water is used to treat sores and ulcers. A mixture of Meliathus , Artemesia, Khaki Bos and Leonotis leaves are brewed in boiling water and once cooled it is used to control aphids and fruit fly. An ideal plant for small garden. 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.

Ochna serrulata

(Mickey Mouse Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and thrives in sun or semi-shade. The young spring foliage is a beautiful pinkish-bronze, maturing to glossy green. This beautiful shrub is covered with fragrant, beautiful yellow flowers that fade to red and are followed by black seeds which look like Mickey Mouse’s face. They attract fruit eating birds. It has spread all over the world and is invasive in Hawaii and Australia. It is frost hardy but slow growing. It’s useful for informal hedging/screening as well as bonsai specimens. It is medicinal as it is used to treat infections and magical as is used as an antidote to evil spirits. It has been grown in England since 1820. It is the larval host plant of the Karkloof Emperor and the Marieps Emperor butterflies. the name is derived from the Greek Ochne = wild pear; referring to the leaves that resemble those of the pear tree.

Schotia brachypetala

(Weeping Boerbean)

This large, handsome, evergreen tree is drought resistant and relatively frost resistant in warm areas. It is found in riverine forests so is adaptable as it grows in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It occurs naturally in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal and Natal. The stunning rich, deep red flowers open in spring and summer and they attract birds, the insect, fruit and nectar eaters. They are also eaten by louries, parrots, baboons and monkeys. It flowers best after a long dry winter so don't be tempted to water it in the winter. The leaves are browsed by baboon, giraffe, impala, nyala and black rhino. It is also used for nesting sites and attracts Foxy and Giant charaxes butterflies. The bark is traditionally used to make sangoma's red dye and the seeds are roasted and eaten. The seeds were eaten by the early Boers. It’s a magical tree and is used to ward off evil. There are many medicinal uses as a decoction is drunk after excessive beer drinking and for heartburn, nausea and diarrhoea. The smoke from the leaves is inhaled for nose bleeds. Powdered leaves are put on ulcers to speed up healing. The bark contains tannin and is used for tanning leather. The wood is hard and is used for furniture, flooring and fuel. It’s a show stopper when in flower but do remember that it drops nectar on parked cars, hence the common name! The roots are not aggressive so plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The Tsonga common name of "Mvhovhovhoz" imitates the sound of the swarming insects at flowering. Named for Richard van der Schot ( 1730-1790) a Dutch gardener who studied at Leiden and became head gardener at the imperial Gardens at Schonbrunn. He was then asked to take a 4 year journery to Grenada, Saint Vincent, Aruba, Cuba and Curacao to collect tropical plants and 'curiosities' for the palaces natural history collection.

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