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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.

Hesperantha coccinea (was Schizostylis coccinea)

(Scarlet River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover of 50cm x 20cm loves moist conditions and it looks stunning next to a water features or pond.The beautiful, attractive star shaped scarlet flowers of bright red, pink or white open in summer and attract buterflies. It is frost hardy and it also require lots of water as it likes to be in a wetland area. It is also good for containers. I once saw these in full flower in the marshy area on the bank of a river in Wakkerstroom, which proves how frost hardy they are.

Kniphofia rooperi

(Winter Poker)

An evergreen groundcover that makes an impressive statement in the autumn, often lasting till well into October. The plants are tall about 1,4m and the large, flattened and wide flower-heads are a rich orange-red with golden flowers at the base of the inflorescence. Plant in well-drained soil, full sun in a wetland area. They are hardy however the evergreen leaves might be knocked back in a harsh winter. It can also be planted in containers. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is medicinal as an infusion of the roots is used to treat chest ailments. Xhosa mothers use dried root pieces in necklaces to bring good luck to their children. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

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.

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