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Acokanthera oppositifolia

(Bushmans Poison)

This small sized evergreen tree it is hardy, drought and frost resistant with non-aggressive roots. It tolerates full sun or shade and also does well as a container plant. The clusters of pink - white, sweetly scented flowers open in spring, followed by large plum coloured fruit like berries. The stems contain poisonous milky latex which was used as an arrow poison by the Bushmen. Although it is poisonous it is used medicinally to treat snake and spider bites and also for aches, toothache and colds. The leaves are used as a snuff for headaches, convulsions, stomach pain and septicaemia. Root decoctions are used toi treat anthrax and tapeworm. Its ideal for a small garden. This plant is toxic and must be approached with caution. Accidental deaths have occurred when children have eaten the flowers or the fruit. One of our Zulu staff said that they eat the fruit. Some have died when they used the branches as sosati sticks to cook their boerewors. It has also been used for murder whereby thorns are soaked in the sap and then left in the path of a barefoot victim. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is used medicinally as an infusion of root bark is used to treat excessive or irregular menstruation.The name is derived from the Greek ,'akris' which means sharp point and 'anthera' which means anthers referring to the sharp anthers within the flowers.

Agapanthus nana

(Miniature Blue||White Agapanthus)

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 25cm high and 35cm wide with grass-like leaves and sky blue or white flowers. It flowers in profusion in summer. It is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing. It thrives in the sun, shade and semi-shade. It is also an ideal plant for container. It attracts birds and butterflies. If it is mass planted it is impressive sight. It is also suitable for townhouse gardens. Use them in mixed borders, within flowerbeds or along pathways. The word 'nana' means dwarf or small.

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. It is frost hardy, drought resistant and looks spectacular when mass planted. It was first described in 1679 in Europe and first planted there in 1692 where it is now a popular hothouse plant. There the common name is "African Hyacinth". Linnaeus called it an "African Lily". The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Praecox means 'early' which refers to it's early flowering. Pregnant women wear pieces of the root made into necklace to ensure a healthy baby and ensure fertility. They also take a decoction of the root to ensure an easy birth and the newborn is washed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are used are bandages. The Zulu use it to treat heart diseases, paralysis and flu. They also wrap the leaves around their tired feet. It is also magical as it is used as a sprinkling charm against lightening. It’s a most useful plant which is undemanding and will grow in sun or shade and is water wise. It is also useful to stabilize a bank. The flowers are long lasting in a vase and they dry well for pot-pourri as they retain their colour. Large clumps can be divided after flowering. When replanted the leaves should be cut back.

Albuca nelsonii

(Nelson’s Slime Lily)

Albuca nelsonii is an evergreen, bulbous perennial, which grows in clumps and is 60 to 120cm high when in flower. The leaves are strap shaped and rather sappy. Its flowers are white with green stripes. They are produced from September to November. The leaves are attractive all year. This bulb needs very little water so are useful for a waterwise, drought resistant garden. They thrive equally well in sun or full shade. The flowers are ideal for the vase. The name is derived from the Latin 'albus' and refers to the white flowers.

Aloe globuligemma

(Knoppiesalwyn)

This evergreen aloe is quite spectacular in flower as the flowers open red and then fade to white. It cheers up a winter garden. It is frost resistant, drought resistant, fast growing in the sun and attracts birds and butterflies. It can be used for hedging/screening, thorny barriers or containers. The big, beautiful bluish leaves are striking even when the plant is not in flower. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

Aponogeton distachyos

(Waterblommetjie)

An evergreen, very fast growing water plant that grows to 30cm tall. The flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, flowers with brown anthers and it flowers in summer. The flowers are edible and are the main ingredient in the traditional South African Tomato bredie stew or they can be added to a soup. They can also be chopped raw into a salad of celery and cucumber. It is traditionally made with 1 kg of lamb to 1 kg of flowers. The following is then added: half a kg of potatoes, 2 onions, 1 cup of dry white wine, salt, sugar and pepper. They can also be used in soup or cooked as a vegetable in lemon butter and it tastes rather like asparagus. The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals. Bees are attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators. It grows in shade, semi-shade and even full sun. An ideal plant for water gardens. Medicinal as the stems are used on burns, scrapes and sunburn. The stems are also fed to pigs and goats. The name comes from the Celtic 'apon'=water.

Artemesia afra

(Wildeals or Wormwood)

This is an evergreen shrub that grows to 1m high to 1m wide. It is named after the Greek Goddess of hunting, Artemis. A tough and easy-to-grow species which adds texture and colour with its finely divided, silver-grey, aromatic foliage. White flowers occur in spring. The growth habit can be somewhat untidy, but it responds well to pruning. The lower branches become woody with age and the plant may need to be replaced after 3 to 4 years. It is frost and drought hardy and requires full sun. A must for the herb garden and useful in shrub borders. It is medicinal as the roots are used to treat colds, pneumonia and intestinal worms.An infusion of 5 grams of leaves are steeped in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and this is used for various respiratory ailments, gastro intestinal complaints, gout, measles, malaria, constipation, blood purifiers, acne, boils,bites and stings, diabetes, croup, whooping cough, loss of appetite, earache and toothache.Childbirth pain and menstrual cramps are treated by steaming the genitals. A bath lotion can be made to treat haemorrhoids, fever and measles. Take 40 grams of fresh leaves and bring to the boil in 2 litres of water. Leave to steep and cool. Strain and bottle ready to put into the bath. Wildeals Brandy was a popular standby to treat many ailments. As it is narcotic and analgesic, the leaves are packed into sore teeth or blocked nose and even into the ear to treat ear ache. A decoction is held in the mouth to treat gum infections. It is made by taking a bottle of brandy and adding 1 cup of Artemesia leaves, 1/4 cup Thyme, 1/2 cup mint, 1 cup of sugar, piece of ginger and 1/4 cup of Rosemary. This must steep for a month. The dose is 1 Tablespoon in water. One can also use this plant to make a moth repellent or an insecticide spray. The leaves are burnt on a braai to keep the mosquitoes away and it gives a pleasant aroma while improving the flavour of the meat. If planted on the border of the bed, it will keep dogs out of the garden. It is also useful if used as a companion plant in a veggie garden and it repels pests like worms and insects like flies and mosquitoes. It also aids soil health and is used in pot pourris and flower arrangements. Plant one in your garden as it is the larval host plant of the larvae of the Painted Lady butterfly.

Asparagus densiflorus mazeppa

(Foxtail Fern)

An evergreen small, semi-woody plant with fern-like shoots, native to coastal dunes, rocky outcrops or woodlands from the south eastern Cape to southern Mozambique. The cultivar Mazeppa forms broad, arching shoots with fine, needle-like foliage and a conifer-like appearance. The tiny, white flowers are followed by attractive, bright red berries. It adapts well to a wide variety of situations in warm, temperate or tropical climates. It makes a perfect, low maintenance and drought tolerant ground cover for full sun or shade. It also makes an excellent house plant. It’s an ideal plant for container or hanging baskets. It attracts birds. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus densiflorus-sprengerii

(Basket Asparagus)

An evergreen groundcover, which is water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in spring and they attract butterflies. The flowers are followed by red berry that attracts fruit eating birds. They are useful for containers and hanging baskets. The bright green, glistening foliage is attractive and is ideal for small gardens and is used in flower arranging. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus falcatus

(Sickle Thorn)

This interesting,evergreen ground cover grows to about 2m, clambering up trees in our forests. It is frost resistant and very fast growing. It will grow in either sun or semi-shade. The little white flowers open in Autumn. It attracts birds and can be used for containers. This asparagus thrives in dry shade so is perfect for a water wise garden. The thorns on the stems are sharp so it can be used as a thorny barrier. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus virgatus

(Broom Asparagus)

A fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 1m high. It is drought resistant and it an ideal plant for containers. It thrives well in semi-shade and it produces white flowers in spring. It attracts birds and does well under trees. It is traditionally used as a sprinkling protective charm and love charm. Medicinally it is used to treat syphilis and intestinal worms. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asystasia bella was Mackaya bella

(Forest Bell Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, fast growing in shade or semi-shade. The delicate mauve or white flowers occur in summer and they attract birds, carpenter bees and butterflies. The glossy dark green leaves help to create an informal screen. The wood is used to make fire by friction and it is an ideal tree for small gardens. It makes a stunning display if planted in a pot and can also serve for screening in a semi-shade area. Can be planted along a stream bank. The River Bell is a desirable garden plant as the roots are not aggressive and it is the larval host plant for the Blue Pansy butterfly. Named for James Townsend Mackay (1775-1862) Scottish horticulturist and curator of the Durban University's botanical garden fro 1804 until his death. He was a professor, active field botanist and author.Dublin university honoured him with a LLD and a PhD in 1850 for his service to botany.

Asystasia gangetica

(Creeping Foxglove)

This reliable, evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It has white flowers in summer which attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Clouded Mother-of-Pearl butterflies as well the Blue Pansy, Brown Pansy, Yellow Pansy and the Common Diadem. The Mother of Pearl is a beautiful green to mauve colour and is spectacular in flight but when settled on a plant it disappears as it looks like a leaf. It is suitable for containers, hanging baskets and small gardens. It spreads rapidly and is good for mass planting. The leaves are used for spinach and I’ve used the flowers in a vase as they are long lasting .

Bauhinia natalensis

(Natal Bauhinia)

This lovely ornamental, rounded evergreen shrub is relatively fast growing and within a few years reaches its mature size of 2.5 x 3m. It occurs in the north-eastern Cape and the Transkei. It has butterfly-shaped leaves and produces delicate, pretty white flowers that have maroon-stripes in summer. Plant it in full sun or semi-shade and it will thrive. It is undemanding and will grow in poor soil. The flowers also attract birds, bees and butterflies. Named after Casper Bauhin 1560-1624 and Johan Bauhin 1541-1613 who were Swiss-French botanists and herbalists.

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