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Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow, slightly scented and open in September to November. The fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They stay on the tree for a long time. The fruit is poisonous and results in hiccups. A popular shade tree, surprisingly drought and frost resistant and fast growing, reaching 4-6 m in three years. The gum has interesting antibiotic properties and is applied to sores. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood, which is yellow, tough and easily worked. It is also used as fire wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots which is used when tanning hides. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements and are eaten by pied barbets. It has non-aggressive roots and attracts birds. It is the larval host plant for several butterflies like Liordes Hairtail, Red -tab Policeman, Two-pip Policeman and the Orange-barred Playboy. I just love these charming butterfly names! It is an ideal tree for wetlands as well as game farms as it is browsed by Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Giraffe and Elephant. It is often used as a street tree, in large gardens and along rivers. There are many medicinal uses. Root bark and stem bark are used to treat a cough, infertility, leprosy and VD. The bark is taken during labour to ease childbirth, to treat infertility and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are used for coughs and abdominal pains.The roots, which some regard as poisonous are used as a purgative, to treat venereal diseases and as a prophylactic for V.D. The roots are fed to dogs by the Zulu to fatten them up.

Gardenia volkensii

(Transvaal Gardenia)

Plant this small evergreen tree, which is waterwise in the sun or semi-shade. It is lovely as a focal plant but be patient as it is slow growing. The stunning, fragrant, white trumpet shaped flowers occur in July to December and open at night so they are pollinated by long- tongued hawkmoths. They are white and fade to cream and finally yellow. It is the larval host plant for the graceful Apricot playboy butterfly whose larvae burrow into the hard fruit.The fruit is egg shaped and ribbed and a whitish colour. It is eaten by monkeys, baboons, elephant, giraffe, kudu and nyala. The leaves are browsed by giraffe, kudu, dassies, eland and impala. Elephants utilise all parts of the tree. It would be useful for informal hedging/screening, but is slow growing. The wood is hard and fine grained and used to carve ornaments. There are many medicinal uses like the treatment of intestinal worms, pneumonia, headaches, sore eyes, madness, to encourage infants to wean and walk and for earache. The fruit is used as an emetic by pulverising it and soaking it in water for an hour. This is then drunk to induce vomiting. The roots are a protective charm to prevent evil spirits and are burned as a protective charm against sorcery. The trees are planted on graves to protect the departed. In Zambia and Zimbabwe it is known as " the tree that keeps evil spirits away". The ripe fruit is pulped and soaked in water for 3 days to produce a black dye. They have a non-aggressive root system so they are suitable for small gardens and are a beautiful bonsai plant. Although they are drought hardy, they are frost tender when young so protect them during the winter months. Named for Dr Alexander Garden 1730-1791 who was a Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist and lived in South Carolina USA.

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