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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.

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.

Aristida junciformis

(Wire grass, Bristle grass)

This grass is used extensively by landscapers as it is undemanding and will grow in any soil type, is frost hardy, fast growing and will even grow in coastal gardens. It grows in the full sun and is waterwise. It forms clumps and has a very graceful habit. It is very pretty when in flower during the summer. It is a pioneer grass and is useful for preventing soil erosion. It is not suitable for grazing as it's unpalatable.It is used for thatching and making brooms.

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.

Becium obovatum now Ocimum obovatum

(Cats Whiskers)

This evergreen ground cover with a fast growth rate grows to about 30cm. It is drought resistant, can take sun and semi-shade.It produces lovely white flowers in Spring and also attracts butterflies. It’s natural habitat is in grasslands.It is Ideal for small gardens or containers.

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