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Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

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.

Stapelia gigantea

(Carrion Flower)

A low, perennial succulent. The stems are almost always erect and are uniformly green to reddish, depending on the extent of exposure to the sun. The flower is white or pinkish, star shaped and opens in summer. The common name refers to the smell which attracts flies. This is a succulent so it only requires moderately watering. Plant it in semi shade near rocks for interest. It is a medicinal plant as stem infusions are used to treat hysteria. Ash from a burnt plant is rubbed into scarification's on the body for pain relief. It is also used in sorcery and as a protective charm. It is the host plant for the African monarch butterfly. Named for Johannes van Stapel ( 1602-1636) a Dutch physician and botanist. He received a medical degree from Leiden University in 1625 and then studied botany. His life's ambition was to publish a botanical work but he died before this was completed. His father went on to complete the work for him.One of the plants in his book is the Stapelia variegata, named by Linnaeus in 1753 which Johannes saw in the Cape in 1624. It has now been renamed Orbea variegata. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Sutera cordata

(Wild Phlox)

A very versatile plant which grows naturally in the Eastern Cape. It likes sun, shade and semi shade as well as moist places. It trails along the ground and produces masses of white flowers with a yellow centre. It is pollinated by bees. It would also look great in a hanging basket. Named for Johann Rudolf Suter (1766-1827) a Swiss physician, botanist, politician and professor. He published a book on Swiss plants which led to his doctorate and professorship. Cordata means heart-shaped and refers to the leaves.

Vachellia erubescens ( Acacia erubescens )

(Blue Thorn)

A small to medium-sized tree which is often multi-stemmed. The thorns are hooked, about 6 cm long, in pairs at the nodes. The leaves are not large, with a raised gland near the base. It flowers in axillary spikes, white in summer, before or with the new leaves. The pods are straight, more or less oblong and leathery. It is an useful for hedging/screening. It is a drought resistant and it should be planted in sun. Frost tender. 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.

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 aethiopica 'Green Goddess'

(Green Arum)

This is a deciduous Arum that grows to about 1 m tall. It has dark green lance shaped leaves and the flowers are also large and open in spring. They are streaked with green and are very graceful in a flower arrangement. They grow in moist conditions in semi shade and will thrive on the water’s edge or even submerged in the water. The sap may cause skin irritations. 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 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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