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Erythrina humeana

(Dwarf Coral Tree)

They occur in the Transvaal and Swaziland. This small, deciduous tree has few branches and the striking flowers occur in mid-summer. They only grow to about 2 or 3 meters tall. They are custom-built to attract birds being red and tubular and as the flowers mature over an extended period of time there are always some in prime condition for the birds, sunbirds, black-eyed bulbuls, Cape White-eye, louries and brown-headed parrots. It is suitable for a small garden and on the Highveld it needs to be against a sunny north-facing wall to prevent frost damage. It grows to its maximum size within two years and prefers a warm summer with moderate rainfall. The bark and the roots are used medicinally. An excellent choice for a bird garden. It has non aggressive roots so can be planted in a pot. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. 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.

Erythrina zeheri

(Ploughbreaker)

Occurs naturally on the Highveld. This is a strange plant as most of it is underground! It is a very low growing, deciduous tree. Shoots form every year from the underground stems and die down in winter. This plant has an enormous underground rootstock in which it stores food. It produces showy scarlet flowers forming upright inflorescences on long stalks over several weeks in summer. The fruit is a smooth black pod with a few orange-red seeds. The common name indicates the damage that the underground trunk does to a farmer’s plough. The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. 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.

Greyia sutherlandii

(Natal Bottlebrush)

This is a small tree, 3 to 7 m tall. It is deciduous and in late autumn the leaves turn shades of bright red. The leaves are simple, alternate, rather leathery, slightly lobed and coarsely toothed. The leaf surface is hairless and minutely glandular. The leaf veins radiate from the base. The leaf stalk is long and straight.The beautiful flowers are red, with oblong petals and long protruding stamens. The showy flowers open in closely packed racemes at the tips of the branches and bloom at the end of winter and early spring. They are laden with nectar and attract starlings, sunbirds, bulbuls, barbets and mousebirds. The fruit is a pale brown, cone-shaped, cylindrical capsule. It splits in 4 or 5 parts when ripe to release seeds from October to December. The wood is pale pink and generally light and soft. Young trees are compact and old trees do not grow tall but they spread and have rough, dark trunks. It is relatively frost hardy, and fairly drought resistant. Under suitable conditions with well-drained soil and good aeration, it is a fast grower but may not grow taller than 3 m in a garden. It does not flower well in coastal areas. It also attract butterflies and the bark is used in traditional medicine while root infusions are used as an emetic to treat biliousness. Named after Sir George Grey ( 1812-1898) and English soldier, explorer, governor, politician and botanist. In 1826 he went to The Royal Military College at Sandhurst and became a captain in 1839. He explored Australia and became Governor of South Australia, New Zealand and the Cape Colony ( 1854-1861.He collected specimens that were sent to Kew Gardens and Flora Capensis Volume 1 is dedicated to him.

Scadoxus puniceus

(Paintbrush)

This deciduous bulb is rare and worth trying to track down. It has huge crimson flowers that open in spring and last for about 4 months during summer. The bright red seeds then fill the space and are quite eye-catching. As it is deciduous one doesn't have to worry about it during a frosty winter. It prefers a very shady garden and even does well indoors. Although the bulb is poisonous it is used in traditional medicine. The roots are used to treat a couch, headaches and pregnancy. Named from the Greek scias= that which you know and the Greek doxus = glorious splendid referring to the magnificent, bright crimson flowers. A glorious umbrel.

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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