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Vachellia xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)

(Fever Tree)

This large sized deciduous tree is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade .It also grows well in a swampy, low lying areas and clay soils. It was originally thought that the tree caused malaria, hence it's common name. It was the swampy conditions that caused the malaria. The fragrant yellow flowers open in Spring and smell like vanilla which attracts insects and insectivorous birds. There is also a white flowering form. First hand experience shows that it has an aggressive roots system, although some books claim that they are non aggressive. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pool. The beautiful yellow bark makes it distinctive and highly sought after, but be aware that they are frost tender when young. It is a useful tree as it has medicinal bark, edible gum and the timber is used for boxwood, furniture and carving as it is hard and heavy. Elephants eat the young branches and giraffe, monkeys and baboon eat the leaves, flowers and the pods. Weavers like to build their nests in these trees, probably because the thorns help to protect them. The bark is used as a good luck charm and it is used medicinally, mixed with dried roots to treat malaria and to treat fevers and eye complaints and the bark is rolled into small balls and chewed for a cough and sore throat. Branches are used to protect fields from hippo. This is a popular bonsai subject. Unfortunately this fungal disease is rather common on Fever Trees. The fungus has been identified as a rust, similar to Uromyces. The suggestion is to totally spray the trunks with triazole type fungicides. (Defender or Bumper 30 ml per 100 L water) Probably the most popular treatment is a total drench with Trichotec --- Trichoderma spp. A living fungi that is antagonistic to many other pathogenic fungi. After the drench it is essential to cover as much of the treated trunk with newspaper to shield the Trichoderma from ultra violet light for a few weeks. Preventatively - be careful as weed-eater damage can initiate an infection. If this is not successful, call an arborist for their opinion and treatment. 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. Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Elephant's child' immortalised the specie with 'The banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with Fever Trees'.

Adansonia digitata

(Baobab)

The enormously fat trunk is the hallmark of the mature tree, the effect being enhanced by the comparatively sparse branches. This is a protected tree in South Africa. Beautiful large, 12 cm , waxy, sweetly scented white flowers with delicately crumpled petals and big yellow stamens occur and are followed by bulbous, egg shaped, woody fruits with a velvet look. The flowers open at night in summer and attract fruit bats and bush babies. It is very drought hardy and it can grow in clay soil. It is a very useful tree as the bark is used for rope, paper, fishing lines, nets, cloth and beautiful baskets. The wood is soft and fibrous and is used for ceiling boards and paper. The wood is salty when burnt and this is added to food. The leaves are edible either raw or cooked as a spinach.They are also medicinal and used to treat fevers or as a poultice on sores and scratches. The pith of the fruit is made into a porridge for mothers with insufficient breast milk. It is fire resistant. The fruits contain tartaric acid and are delicious and the fruit pulp makes a refreshing drink which is high in vitamin C. They contain more calcium than milk, more iron than red meat, more potassium than a banana and more magnesium than spinach.The seeds are eaten raw, or dried and are also roasted and used as a coffee substitute.The seeds are also rich in Vitamin D and are used in beauty products. The fruit is eaten by baboon and monkeys. Superstitions: It is believed that if one drinks the water in which the seeds have been soaking, one is protected from crocodiles. An acid porridge is made from the pith and this makes one strong and brave. It is believed that the evil spirits that live in the flowers will tell the lion to eat whoever picks a flower. In Zambia the women are forbidden to eat the fruit during the beer brewing as it would cause the beer to go bad. It attracts birds, bees, butterflies and mammals. It is a good fodder tree for impala, kudu, nyala and elephant. The roots and trunk can be tapped as a source of water and one tree can supply 1000 gallons of water. The young roots are cooked and eaten. The bark is pinkish - grey. The Champion tree in South Africa is the Sagole Baobab which is in the Big Tree Nature Reserve, 100 km north of Thohoyandou in Limpopo. It has a trunk diameter of 10,47 meters, a height of 22 meters and a crown diameter of 38,2 meters. It is estimated to be several thousand years old. In 1862 Thomas Baines commented on a fallen Baobab near Nxai Pan in Botswana. He painted that group of trees and they are now called 'Baines Baobabs'. That fallen one is still growing after all these years. Recently Prince Charles asked to be taken there as he wanted to paint them in watercolour. Warning - this tree grows in the hot areas of South Africa with minimal rain and is not suited for a Highveld garden. It would need to be protected if planted here. Mankind has used hollow Baobabs for storage, domes, prison at the Kasane police station, bars like the Muchison Club, burial sites and hideaways. During world war 2 Major Trollip built an operating toilet in a Baobab at Katima Mullilo and it is now known as The Toilet Tree.The wood is very soft and is used in the manufacture of paper. Birds such as Rollers, Hornbills, Parrots and Barn Owls nest in the trunk recesses. The tree is also used by Leopard and Spotted Genet. It was named after Michael Adanson 1727-1806 who was a French botanist and naturalist. He published monographs of the Baobab. Digitata comes from the Latin digitus=finger which refers to the composition of the leaflets.The origin of the word Baobab is found in the Egyptian name Bu hobab given to it by Cairo merchants who dealt in exotic products during the 16th century. David Livingstone referred to it as "that giant upturned carrot". It is also referred to the "upside down tree." It is used medicinally to treat fevers and diarrhoea.

Albizia adianthifolia

(Flatcrown)

This is a fast growing, deciduous, large tree with a clean straight trunk and branches that arch upwards and outwards, so that the feathery foliage forms a flat spreading crown. The flowers are white and fluffy and the flowering time is autumn. It grows up to a metre per year and does well in sun or shade. It is very frost tender and therefore is not suitable for Highveld gardens. The wood is used for turning, making drums, carving spoons, the poles are used for building and the bark is used medicinally for skin complaints. It is also used for firewood. The leaves are used to make a tea to treat dysentery. A bark infusion is used to treat toothache. It attracts birds like Forest Weavers that tear open the seed pods in search for parasites. It is also the larval host plant for several butterflies like the Kerstens Hairtail, Blue-spotted Emperor, Satyr Emperor and the Common Sailor. Elephants eat the leaves and young shoots. A lovely tree for a large, warm garden. This tree was introduced to the Seychelles where it has now become an invader specie.

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.

Dombeya rotundifolia

(Wild Pear)

This deciduous tree can reach 5 to 10 meters. The stem is often crooked and the rough bark is dark grey-brown. It produces lovely white pinkish scented flowers in early spring and is a striking sight. These flowers attract bees and butterflies. One of it's common names is "Bruidjie van die bosveld" because it looks like a bride clad in white. It likes summer rain and a dry winters. The leaves are thick, rough and hairy. The word rotundifolius means having round leaves. They are browsed by game, elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, sable and steenbok and the inner bark is used for twine. The bark is stripped, soaked for 2 days and then pounded with round rocks till soft and smooth. These fibres are twisted into string and rope . They are also used to bind dressings in place. The heavy wood is termite proof and is used for implement handles, fence posts and ornaments. The bark is traditionally used to relieve headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, to hasten labour and for abortions. Roots are used for abdominal upsets, colic, diarrhea and rheumatism. Root decoctions are rubbed into the body to dispel the effects of witchcraft. Makes a lovely bonsai and is cold and fire resistant. Very good street tree as it does not have aggressive roots so plant it about 3 meters from buildings and pools. Dried flowers are used in floral decorations. This is the larval host plant for the Ragged Skipper butterfly as well as 9 moth species. Named for Joseph Dombey 1742-1794, a French naturalist, physician, botanist and traveller. He researched the cinchona plant which produces quinine for malaria. He wrote numerous books that were only published once he had died. Sometimes his specimens were captured and sent to the British Museum instead of the French one. They were also confiscated. On a trip to the USA they were struck by a storm and never arrived. He was captured and imprisoned, for a ransom, in the West Indies where died in jail.

Haemanthus albiflos

(Dappled Snowbrush)

This deciduous groundcover thrives in shade or semi-shade. It has beautiful white flowers in autumn which look like paint brushes that have been dipped in snow. It attracts butterflies and is medicinally used for coughs. It looks beautiful when mass planted under trees or in pots in a patio. The name is derived from the Greek haima=blood as the colour of the perianth , flower, is red in many cases.

Jasminum multipartitum

(Starry Wild Jasmine)

This evergreen scrambler is water wise and is happy planted in the sun or semi shade. The fragrant white/pink flowers occur in spring and attract butterflies. This plant attracts birds - insect and nectar eaters and is also used for nesting sites. Plant it against a trellis on the patio where you will enjoy the fragrant flowers. It is ideal for small gardens to create a screen and is happy to be in a pot, but do provide lots of compost. It is used magically as a love charm. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. The Hawk moths pollinate the flowers. Margaret Roberts suggests planting it up a twirley dryer to create a shady, sweetly scented spot to sit. She also suggests that the dried flowers make an excellent digestive tea. The flowers are also used in a bath vinegar. They are pushed into a bottle of vinegar and left in the sun for a week. It is then strained and 1 cup is added to bath water or used as a hair rinse. They also make a lovely pot-pourri. The name is derived from the Persian yasmin = a fragrant shrub.

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.

Senegalia caffra ( Acacia caffra)

(Common Hook Thorn)

This fast growing, deciduous tree that grows to a medium height of 9m x 9m. It grows in numerous areas including the Highveld. Often seen on quartzite koppies as it tolerates low ph soil. It is very attractive with its pale green, soft and feathery drooping foliage. The fluffy, creamy yellow flower spikes are very pretty and fragrant and are visible in spring. They are followed by straight flat brown pods. It has brown, paired hook thorns which are not easily shed. The edible flowers attract monkeys, birds and insects. It is considered to be a good fodder tree and is also eaten by livestock, Black Rhino, giraffe, kudu, impala, reedbuck and grey duiker. Plant it in full sun with moderate water. It is also good for bonsai. It has a rather aggressive root system so don't plant it closer than 3 meters from a building or pool. The long flexible branches are used for basket making and it also used for tobacco pipes. The wood is hard and termite proof so it is used for fencing posts and furniture. It is also used for fuel as it produces long lasting coal. It is traditionally used as a protection charm by hammering branches into the ground. The bark, leaves and roots have medicinal and magical properties. The leaves are eaten for abdominal disorders and the roots are used as a love charm emetic. The bark is used for blood cleansing and it is also used as a light brown dye.The wood is hard and is used for fence poles and fuel. It tolerates fire and is frost and drought resistant. This is the larval host plant for the Pennington's Playboy and the Van Son's Playboy.

Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Senegalia nigrescens ( Acacia nigrescens )

(Knob-thorn)

This deciduous, medium sized tree usually grows in single-species stands. They are slow growers and reach a height of 8-20m. The very strong hooked thorns are retained on old growth, eventually growing into large spiny knobs. This is an aid to identifying the trees when they are leafless. The bark is distinctive, dark brown, rough and deeply fissured. The creamy white flower spikes are at first rusty-pink, but white when fully open. Its flowering time is in spring and the sweetly scented flowers occur before the leaves and in profusion. Honeybees are fond of the nectar and it produces a good honey. The flowers are eaten by giraffe, baboons and monkeys and the leaves and pods are eaten by elephant, giraffe, kudu, duiker, impala and steenbok. The oblong pod is very dark brown. The leaves are round and much bigger than other Acacias. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb or spinach. Elephant also eat the inner bark which has healing properties to fight tooth decay. The knobs are ground and used as a painkiller and to treat eye infections. There is a belief that if it is applied to young girls they will develop large breasts. 40 % of a girafffe's diet consists of the leaves and it is thought that they pollinate the flowers. It should be planted in full sun. It is frost hardy and survives moderate drought. It is an ideal plant for bonsai. This is a host plant for the Demon Emperor butterfly and the Dusky Charaxes. It is also the host plant of the Cream Striped Owl Moth which have distinctive eye-spots on the wings. Birds like Woodpeckers, Barbets, Scops Owl and Squirrels utilise it for nesting in holes. White backed vultures nest in those trees that are close to rivers. The wood is hard, heavy and difficult to work, but it is used for furniture, flooring, railway sleepers and mine props. It's useful for fencing poles as it is termite resistant, and is used for fighting sticks and long burning fuel. The inner bark is used to make twine while the outer bark is used for tanning leather.They are shallow rooted and elephant often knock the trees down, so don't camp near these trees. It is used magically as poles are planted in the ground to stop lightening striking the village. In Botswana a tree with a girth of 43 cm was carbon dated and aged at 313 years.That's 100 years before the French Revolution! The name is derived from the Greek word akis meaning a point or spike referring to the thorns and the Latin word 'nigrescans' meaning 'becoming black' which refers to the seed pods that blacken with age. Mistletoe is often seen growing on these trees.

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.

Tabernaemontanum elegans

(Toad Tree)

This small shrub/tree is deciduous to evergreen depending on the climate and frost. The trunk is usually single, upright, with a rounded crown. The foliage is glossy dark green and in autumn the leaves change to bright yellow. The white, fragrant flowers clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring to autumn. The fruit, which resembles a toad, are eaten by monkeys, baboons, rhino. birds and people. The orange fruit pulp is considered to be edible and is also used to curdle milk, whereas the roots are used for chest problems. The latex has been used to stop bleeding and is also reported to be useful as bird lime. It attract birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by game and the bark protects the tree from fire. Named for Jakob Theodor von Bergzaben (1522-1590) also known as 'Tabernaemontanus' a German physician, pharmacist and botanist. He developed a passion for herbs and then studied medicine. He was known for his life's work, an illustrated book on medicinal herbs published in 1588. Throughout his life he tried to find a cure for the plague, typhus. The meaning of 'elegans' is elegant.

Vachellia abyssinica ( Acacia abyssinica)

(Nyanga Flat Top)

This medium sized, deciduous tree is frost resistant, fast growing in the sun. It grows to about 16 meters. The white flowers open in spring. It attracts birds, butterflies and mammals. It has a flat crown with beautiful flaky bark. The bark on young trees is yellowish and it fades to red/brown on older trees. The twigs are hairy and the thorns are paired and straight. It's a lovely shade tree with edible gum It enriches the soil as it fixes nitrogen in the soil. A useful tree for bee farmers. This tree has many uses and although the wood is not durable it is used to carve crafts, instrument handles, utensils and firewood. The branches are fed to goats. Medicinal. 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.

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