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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.

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.

Searsia crenata (Rhus crenata)

(Dune Crow-Berry)

This evergreen shrub or small tree can reach a height of 3–5 m. It is spineless and grows well on sandy dune soils and is therefore useful for coastal gardens. It can be pruned to make an effective and attractive hedge or screen, an ideal windbreak and can be successfully used as a bonsai. The flowers are insignificant, white to almost cream and appear in small clusters at the tip of branches during autumn. The fruits are small round red-brown to pale black berries and are popular with birds. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves.

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