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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.

Erythrophysa transvaalensis

(Transvaal Red Balloon)

This is a deciduous shrub or small tree which grows up to 4 m high and 5 m wide. The attractive flowers are produced in erect panicles before or with the new leaves. They are green, suffused with red. The flowers have four clawed petals and straight, protruding stamens. The fruit is a large, balloon-like structure, three-angled, with three chambers. The flowers open in spring and are quite spectacular. Plant it in a full sun or even in semi-shade near swimming pools or in a big pot. The large black seeds are used by African woman to make beads. It attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek erythros=red and physos=bladder referring to the red balloon fruits.

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.

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