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Melianthus comosus

(Small Melianthus)

An evergreen, attractive multi-stemmed shrub where all the parts of the plant produce a strong, unpleasant smell when bruised, hence the Afrikaans common name, ‘Kruidjie-roer-my-nie’. The large, grey-green, serrated leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branches. The small, nectar rich bird pollinated flowers are borne in short clusters, followed by four-winged bladder capsules which are often as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. An ideal plant for a low maintenance and water wise garden. It is suitable for mixed borders and should always be cut back after flowering. It also attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant, it attracts the Arrowhead butterflies. It is medicinally used as a poultice for sores, snake bite, swelling, painful feet and bruises. The root bark is used to make a tonic and it is used in the bath to promote sweating. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

Salvia africana lutea

(Brown Salvia)

This is an aromatic, evergreen, hardy shrub with unusually coloured flowers borne over a long period of time. It is fairly fast-growing and very attractive to wildlife. This is an excellent choice for coastal gardens, as it prefers light, well-drained soil and full sun. It tolerates strong winds, and is drought resistant. They are cultivated successfully further inland and upcountry, and it is capable of sprouting from its rootstock and recovers from frost damage. It prefers a warm sheltered spot in the garden if you live in a frosty area. Flowering begins in early spring, and the bright yellow flowers soon fade to rusty-orange and then reddish brown. After the petals fall, the saucer-like calyx, which becomes papery with age, remains as an added attraction. The flowers are both attractive and a curiosity. . They are sweetly scented and attract sunbirds and moths.It is the larval host plant to the Mocker Blue, Sabi Smoky Blue, Graham's Blue. Ketsi Blue and Variable Blue butterflies. A tea is brewed to treat coughs, colds, liver and digestive problems and female ailments and bronchitis. The name comes from the Latin 'salvere' meaning to save or to heal and 'lutea' comes from the fact that the flowers are yellow when they open.

Vachellia sieberana (Acacia sieberiana var. woodii)

(Paperbark Thorn)

This tree occurs in Northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. It is easily identified by its dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark. The fluffy, scented white pompom blooms are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage. The papery bark is exceptionally attractive and peels off in flattish strips, displaying yellow under bark. The bark is highly flammable and sensitive to fire, so perhaps it’s best not to build a braai under it. Legend has it that one should write one’s wishes on a piece of bark and blow it away. This apparently guarantees that your wishes will be fulfilled. The bark shelters insects which are foraged by insect eating birds. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. The Buffalo Weavers nest in these trees. Pied and Crested Barbets like to make nesting holes in the bark. The bark is also used to create a grey dye. It will remain evergreen in a moist habitat but in cooler or drier parts it is semi or completely deciduous. The paired, white thorns are joined at the base and grow up to 100 mm in length. The light brown pods have a musty or fruity smell and are 100 to 200 mm long. The pods are browsed by game and the Grey Hornbills crack open the pods to eat the seeds but the leaves contain prussic acid which is dangerous to stock. A wonderful nesting and lookout site for many birds, and is a ‘food basket’ for a variety of birds, beetles, bees and other bugs. It is the larval host of the Black-striped Hairtail, Common Scarlet and the Silver-spotted Grey. It is medicinal as an infusion from the roots is used as an antiseptic and a bark decoction is a painkiller. It is also used to wash children who have a fever, stomach ache, acne, gonorrhoea, colds, tapeworms and diarrhea. The leaves are a vermifuge. The wood is used for general timber although easily damaged by insects. It is fasts growing and would make useful firewood and timber. It is often seasoned under water for 6 months to make it more durable. The gum is clear and of a good quality. Soot is added to the gum to make ink.It has been recorded as growing to about 200 years. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 7 meters from buildings and pools. This is a popular bonsai subject. Branches fall from these trees. All thorn trees drop their thorns so it is not suitable for a lawn. 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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