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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.

Gunnera purpensa

(Wild Rhubarb)

Gunnera purpensa Wild Rhubarb This deciduous shrub grows to about 1m in the sun. It is frost resistant and produces reddish brown flowers in spring. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or in a dam. The stems and roots are peeled and eaten and it also has medicinal value. The large leaves are 30 cm wide and are attractive next to a water feature. The leaf and flower stems can be eaten raw or cooked. The underground stem is used to promote the expulsion of the afterbirth in stock and in humans. An infusion is used to treat urinary disorders and psoriasis. It is also mixed with a Crinum bulbispermum to treat rheumatic fever pain. The roots are used to treat male and female infertility. , rheumatic fever, poor appetite, abdominal pain, colds and flu and to cleanse the blood. Named after Johan Ernest Gunnerus ( 1718-1773) who was a Norwegian clergyman, collector and scholar. He discovered many plants, birds, fish and animals. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

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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