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Phyllanthus reticulatus

(Potato Bush)

This is a branched shrub, sometimes partially scrambling, usually 1-5 m high, or a small twiggy tree that grows to 8 m in height. The bark is light reddish-brown or grey-brown with hairy stems when young, which become smooth with age.The leaves are alternate along slender branches. They are up to 25 cm long and appear as leaflets of large pinnate leaves. The leaves are thinly textured, usually hairless. They have a noticeable reddish net-veining which is more visible above than below. The leaves are browsed by game. It is usually a dense deciduous shrub or small tree with a distinct, potato smell that is emitted by the minute flowers when they open towards the early evening. It flowers from September to October. Potato bush grows best in deep moist soil, but can also tolerate sandy soil. It does not do well in dry conditions and that is probably the reason why so many of us have been unsuccessful keeping it alive on the Highveld. This plant is best planted together with other taller bushes where it can scramble. The fruit produces black dye and are loved by birds, small antelope and monkeys. It is used medicinally for a large variety of ailments. Root bark infusions are used to conceal secrets from diviners and also to give clear visions. Bark and leaves are used as a diuretic. Powdered leaves are put onto sores and burns while the twigs are used as toothbrushes. The roots and fruits have been used in criminal poisoning in Zambia. It is the larval host plant to 1 moth specie and the Albatros White butterfly. The name is derived from the Greek phyllon =leaf; anthos= a flower. In some species the flowers are born on leaf-like branches.

Pittosporum viridiflorum

(Cheesewood)

An evergreen tree that can reach 10m and is protcted in South Africa. They occur over a wide range of altitudes and in a variety of habitats. It does occur on the Highveld but is not common.The leaves are simple and a dark green to bluish green, but appear brilliant green when seen against the sun. They are eaten by cattle, goats, grey duiker, kudu, klipspringer, nyala and bushbuck. The cream/yellow flowers open in spring and are sweetly honey scented. They attract a number of insects and therefore also the insect eating birds.The fruits are bright red seeds which are coated in a sticky resin and enjoyed by doves, pigeons, louries, barbets, bubuls and starlings. Guinea fowl and francolin enjoy the fallen fruit. The bark has a sweetish smell, but a bitter taste and it is medicinal as it is used to treat stomach complaints, pain, malaria and fever. The dried bark is taken in beer as an aphrodisiac. It is also used as a protection charm to protect patients from witchcraft. It is frost hardy and requires full sun.Ideal for containers as it does not have aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek pitta = pitch; spora= seed. The seed is covered in a dark, sticky resin.

Senecio barbetonicus

(Succulent Bush Senecio)

This neat, compact, rounded shrub has long narrow, needle-like succulent leaves that almost resemble skinny jelly beans. It grows to 1.5m high and 1.5 wide. The small sweetly scented yellow daisy flowers are displayed in spring. It grows in sun and semi-shade. It is a drought resistant and frost hardy plant. This shrub when planted in the garden requires moderate watering in summer and very little in winter. Trim it once in a while to keep it neat. It attracts butterflies and is browsed by game. The name is derived from the Latin senex=an old man. The white hairy pappus (scales or bristles) of the seed is reminiscent of an old man's beard.

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