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Croton gratissimus

(Lavender Fever Berry)

This is an attractive and versatile deciduous shrub or small tree for the home garden. It is capable of becoming a large tree in certain instances and it may reach 10m high if there is sufficient heat and rain. It is a slender tree with fine, drooping foliage and a crown which spreads upwards in a 'V'-shape with drooping terminal branches. The elongated leaves are green above and the lower surface is silvery with little brown scales. They are aromatic when crushed hence the latin name gratissimus which means most pleasant. It bears small cream to golden yellow flowers in summer that are visited by bees. Fruit is formed between September and November and is a three lobed capsule. First green then it turns yellow as it matures. In late autumn the capsule dries out and explodes flinging the seeds some distance from the mother plant. The fruit is enjoyed by birds. It is a drought resistant and requires sun to semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The root is used medicinally as a purgative or an enema for fevers. The root is also a protective charm and is used as an aphrodisiac.The bark is used for abdominal disorders and is rubbed into incisions on the skin for pains in the chest. The leaves are placed on hot coals and inhaled for insomnia. They are also placed in baths for fevers and bleeding gums. Despite being a poisonous tree, there are many medicinal uses. Powdered leaves are used to make perfume. The wood is heavy and termite resistant so is used for huts, fence poles and sticks. It is the larval host plant to the green-veined emperor butterfly.

Gardenia volkensii

(Transvaal Gardenia)

Plant this small evergreen tree, which is waterwise in the sun or semi-shade. It is lovely as a focal plant but be patient as it is slow growing. The stunning, fragrant, white trumpet shaped flowers occur in July to December and open at night so they are pollinated by long- tongued hawkmoths. They are white and fade to cream and finally yellow. It is the larval host plant for the graceful Apricot playboy butterfly whose larvae burrow into the hard fruit.The fruit is egg shaped and ribbed and a whitish colour. It is eaten by monkeys, baboons, elephant, giraffe, kudu and nyala. The leaves are browsed by giraffe, kudu, dassies, eland and impala. Elephants utilise all parts of the tree. It would be useful for informal hedging/screening, but is slow growing. The wood is hard and fine grained and used to carve ornaments. There are many medicinal uses like the treatment of intestinal worms, pneumonia, headaches, sore eyes, madness, to encourage infants to wean and walk and for earache. The fruit is used as an emetic by pulverising it and soaking it in water for an hour. This is then drunk to induce vomiting. The roots are a protective charm to prevent evil spirits and are burned as a protective charm against sorcery. The trees are planted on graves to protect the departed. In Zambia and Zimbabwe it is known as " the tree that keeps evil spirits away". The ripe fruit is pulped and soaked in water for 3 days to produce a black dye. They have a non-aggressive root system so they are suitable for small gardens and are a beautiful bonsai plant. Although they are drought hardy, they are frost tender when young so protect them during the winter months. Named for Dr Alexander Garden 1730-1791 who was a Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist and lived in South Carolina USA.

Ptaeroxylon obliquum

(Sneezewood)

This evergreen, medium sized tree is water-wise, extremely hardy and durable. Leaflets are distinctly asymmetrical in shape. Foliage sometimes colours in autumn and winter, but the tree is not always deciduous. The young foliage is browsed and enjoyed by game including various antelope and giraffe. This is a moderate to fast grower (0.4 to 1 m per year). It will withstand moderate frost and is very drought-tolerant, but will perform better where rainfall is higher. It appears to prefer shale or limey soils, but grows in most well-drained sandy or rocky soils. The tree is used traditionally both for medicine and ritual purposes. Bark is used as a snuff to relieve headaches. Pieces of wood can be placed in cupboards to repel moths. The resin from the heated wood has been applied to warts and powdered bark added to a wash to kill cattle ticks. The wood is reported to "burn like paraffin" giving a bright, hot fire. It was also used as tinder to make fire by friction. Flowers are small, sweetly scented, with four petals, opening white with an orange centre and are produced from August to December. Male and female flowers occur on different trees. The fruit is an oblong capsule, notched at the tip and splits open to produce winged seeds. This is the larval host plant to the Citrus Swallowtail butterfly. Plant it about 4 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek ptairein = to sneeze and xylon - wood, referring to the freshly cut wood that has an irritant which causes sneezing

Scutia myrtina

(Cat-Thorn)

This small evergreen tree/shrub/creeper is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, semi-shade or deep shade. The yellow flowers occur in summer, and then become fruit which attracts fruit eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Forest-king Emperor and the Rufous - winged Elfin butterflies. it's most important use is as a security barrier. The Cat Thorn has hooked thorns which make it an effective barrier. The leaves are used medicinally and it is browsed by game. The name is derived from the Latin scutum=a shield. this refers to the calyx that surrounds the fruit like a shield.

Vepris lanceolata

(White Ironwood)

This medium sized, evergreen tree grows to 6m high in open woodland but in deep forests it becomes a tall graceful tree with a gently rounded crown of shiny light green foliage. The whitish grey bark is smooth and the tiny yellowish flowers appear in sprays from December to March. The leaves and fruit are dotted with oil glands that release a citrus smell when crushed. The small, black fruits are favoured by birds. It tolerates only light frost and is fairly drought resistant once established. It makes a good screen. It grows very well in sandy soil. It is ideal for small gardens as it has non aggressive roots. can also be planted in containers for indoors and patios. Also great for bird gardens as the fruit attract the fruit eaters, like louries, pigeons, doves, starlings, barbets and black-eye bulbuls and the flowers attract insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is the larval host plant to the Citrus, Constantine's Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded butterflies. The roots are powdered and used as a remedy for influenza. The white wood is hard and elastic and is used for implement handles and roof rafters which can last up to 200 years. Plant it 3 meters from a building or pool. The name is derived from the Latin vepres = a bramble or thorny shrub. This does not apply to our South African Vepris. Lanceolata refers to the lance shaped leaves.

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