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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.

Crinum macowanii

(River Lily)

The large, beautifully scented bell shaped pale pink to dark pink flowers, sometimes darkly streaked are displayed at the top of a long stalk (about 1-1,2m) above a clump of strap–shaped green leaves are seen in a spring to summer. As the plant is dormant in winter, it needs to be kept dry in winter.It is similar to Crinum bulbispermum but it has black anthers. It’s an ideal, frost hardy plant for wetland gardens and requires full sun. The bulb is used traditionally for kidney and bladder diseases, itchy rashes, tuberculosis and rheumatic fever. The leaves are used as bandages for swellings. Like the Crinum bulbispermum, it is also a protective charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily. This specie is named for Dr Peter MacOwan (1830-1901) an academic, plant collector and professor who moved to South Africa for health reasons. He was, in 1869 the director of the Cape Town Botanical Gardens and curator of the Cape Government Herbarium. He was one of the first Professors of Botany at UCT..After his retirement he worked at the Albany Museum where many of his specimens were preserved.

Senegalia ataxacantha (Acacia ataxacantha)

(Flame Thorn)

A small, deciduous tree which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. In summer it is covered in white, spike flowers which attracts insect eating birds and is often used for nesting sites. It makes a great thorny, security barrier. There are scattered hook thorns . The beautiful red pods give rise to the common name of Flame Thorn. The wood is flexible when split into strips and these are used to weave baskets. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Black-striped Hairtail, the Satyr Emperor and the Club-tailed Emperor.

Spirostachys africana

(Tamboti)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree with a round crown occurs at low altitudes. It grows up to 18 m in height. The tree is commonly known for its toxic milky latex that exudes from all parts of it. Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flower heads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The flowers are visited by bees. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days from October to February. The Knobthorn Moth lays its eggs in the fruit and the larvae cause the fruit to jump once they have hatched. This is why they are called 'jumping beans'.The fruit is eaten by birds, antelope and monkeys. This tree is very attractive in larger gardens, it is fairly drought and frost resistant, but grows very slowly. Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as a painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs. Powdered bark is rubbed all over the body to prevent having a hairy body. Wood smoke is inhaled to drive away evil spirits. Pieces of bark are worn as a protective charm and it is also used as a fish poison. It attracts birds, butterflies and is also ideal for bonsai. Antelope, stock and monkeys eat the fallen leaves while fresh leaves are eaten by Black Rhino and Elephant. Porcupine eat the bark. Although it is medicinal, all parts of this tree can cause nausea and death. The wood is hard and is used for furniture but is lethal if used for fuel. It is more fragrant than sandalwood and can be put into linen cupboards to keep fish-moths away. Even the sawdust smoke is lethal if burnt. I read of children who died after using the branches as skewers to braai their boerewors. The name is derived from the Greek speiros = spiralled or twisted ; stachys= spike as the flowers are in a tight spiral on the spike.

Vachellia tortilis (Acacia tortilis)

(Umbrella Thorn)

It is a most classically shaped Acacia and is the well known emblem of one of our commercial banks and was the subject of many of Pierneef's paintings. The flat top droops slightly at the edge, producing an umbrella shape. It occurs naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Noah apparently used this wood to make The Arc. It has both hooked and straight thorns.The flowers open in summer and are white pompoms and sometimes so profuse that the tree appears blanketed in snow. Baboon and monkeys enjoy eating the flowers. It makes a striking specimen and is highly sought after for bonsai. It requires full sun and survives drought and frost. It grows well in any soil even in clay soil although it is an indicator in the wild of good soil and grasses for grazing. It stabilizes the soil. The bark is used to make fibre for ceremonial skirts and it is used to make a yellow dye. Elephant are fond of the bark and often tear off strips which result in the death of the tree. In the Kruger National Park sharp rocks are placed around the trees to protect them from the elephants as they don't like walking on sharp rocks. Attracts birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, springbok, bushbuck, impala, duiker and giraffe while the contorted pods are enjoyed by monkeys, baboons and parrots. The gum is edible and is enjoyed by Bushbabies. It is slow growing but the wood is used for fuel. It is planted to stabilize the soil as it has an extensive root system. It is the larval host plant for the Topaz Blue and the Brown Playboy. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

Zantedeschia albomaculata

(Arrow-Leaved Arum)

This is a summer rainfall, deciduous species from eastern Southern Africa. It is found in marshy ground on rocky or grassy mountainsides or stream banks. It is a medium/tall plant with striking arrow shaped leaves that often have white spots. The name albomaculata means "spotted with white.” It has white/creamy spathes, with a dark throat. This attracts the pollinators which are either spiders or beetles. Lydenberg in Mpumalange is home to 4 Zantedescia species. The Zulu women use a decoction of the plant to treat women who have frequent miscarriages and give birth to weak babies. The flowers are suitable for the vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zantedeschia rehmanni

(Pink Arum)

This small arum only grows to 30 cm in rocky grassland. The leaves are lance shaped and the delicate flowers are white, pale pink, dark pink and purple. They open from September to February. It is one of the 4 species of Arums that grow in the rocky grasslands around Lydenberg, Mpumalanga. The rocks help to prevent the porcupines from eating the tubers. They are threatened as they have been exploited for the horticultural trade. The flowers are suitable for the vase. There is a large pale pink form that looks like a cross between the Z rehmanni and the Z aethiopica which is called Z 'Marshmallow'. It's very pretty and also does well as a cut flower. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zanthoxylum capense

(Small Knobwood)

Occurs in the Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. This small, mutistemmed tree grows to about 5 m in the sun or semi shade in the dry woodlands on rocky slopes. It’ s a protected tree in South Africa with glossy green leaves that have a strong citrus smell when crushed, the thorns are straight and brown and fade to grey on cone shaped protuberance when old. The flowers are white/green and are sweetly scented. They attract insects and insect eating birds. It is both drought and frost hardy. The citrus swallowtail larvae, White-banded Swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail and the Emperor Swallowtail feed off the leaves while the fruit is eaten by birds, monkeys and baboons. The leaves are browsed by kudu, klipspringer and grey duiker. The fruit is chewed for stomach aches, colic, flatulence, cramps and pain. Crushed leaves are made into a tea which is drunk for stomach upsets, diarrhoea, cramps and intestinal worms. The crushed leaves of Artemesia afra and the Knobwood were used during the 1918 Flu epidemic and made into a strong tea. It is used for colds, flu, coughs and a gargle.The bark is used for snake bite and gall-sickness in cattle and the twigs are used as toothbrushes. The crushed seeds are used as perfume. Pounded bark is made into a tea and drunk for blood conditions and also applied to skin eruptions, snake bite and toothache. The wood is yellow and is used for implements and walking sticks which are considered to be a protective charm. The leaves can be left in oil in a warm place for 4 days. This is used to massage tired feet. The pungent leaves can be added to pot-pourri or used with Artemesia leaves to make an insect-repellant pot-pourri. Itt is useful for containers as it has non aggressive roots.

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