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Combretum molle

(Velvet Bushwillow)

Velvet bush willow is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that grows to 13 meters with a rounded crown. It has grey bark when young and this becomes grey-brown or almost black when older. Young leaves are attractive with a light pink or orange colour. Its flowering time is Sept.–Nov. The flowers are in dense axillary spikes with a greenish yellow colour, strongly scented and attractive to bees and other insects. The fruit is light green with reddish shade which turns red-brown when dry. Dried fruit is used in flower arrangements. It is used medicinally as the boiled root decoction is used for abortions, and to treat constipation, infertility, diarrhea, bleeding after childbirth, convulsions, fattening infants, backache and for difficulty walking which is caused by sorcery, headaches, stomach aches, fever, dysentery and swellings, and as an anthelmintic for hookworm. The leaves are chewed, soaked in water and the juice drunk for chest complaints. They are also boiled and used as a hot compress for wounds and snake bites. It can also be used as an inhalant in a hot steam bath to treat headaches. It is termite-proof and can be used to make fence posts, implement handles and bowls for grinding peanuts and mealies and mortars. Red fabric dyes are made from the leaves, whereas dyes made from the roots are yellow-brown. It is browsed by game. It is the larval host plant for the Guineafowl and Morant's Skipper butterflies. Canaries strip the bark for nesting. A very useful tree.

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. They have a very high spiritual vibration so they are used in love spells and to attract good spirits during rituals. Dried petals are used in incense and sprinkled on the floor to create peace. Fresh flowers are put in sick rooms.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.

Helichrysum splendidum

(Cape Gold)

A fast growing shrub which grows to 1,5 m x 1 m within 2 years, forming a dense grey mound. The new growth on the outside is stiff, but not woody. The older branches at the base and in the middle of the bush turn hard and brown with age. The stems are covered with a thick felt of woolly white hairs. The soft young leaves are also covered with grey woolly hairs. The leaves are aromatic with a slight camphor scent when rubbed. In mid-summer, from November to February, the shrub is covered with bright yellow flowers. The flowers have a slight sweet perfume. This easy to grow shrub requires very little maintenance provided that it is given a large enough area to spread without smothering its neighbours. Like most plants with grey foliage, Helichrysum splendidum needs to be planted in the full sun. Plant in a well-composted bed with good drainage, full sun and occasional good watering. To shape and encourage new growth, the shrub can be prune lightly after flowering.

Hypericum revolutum

(Curry Bush)

This multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is fast-growing, evergreen and grows to 3 m high and spreads about the same width. The stems have reddish brown, scaly bark and drooping branches. The evergreen plant's leaves release a curry-like smell when crushed and after rain. The fresh, green foliage and bright yellow flowers are reasons to have this delightful plant in your garden. Flowers are single and bright yellow, up to 50 mm in diameter. Flowering time is in summer and autumn. The fruit are reddish brown capsules enclosing the seeds. The wood of this plant is used as timber and for building material in some African countries. Medicinally, it is used to treat stomach ache and the leaves are cooked and strained to heal sores and VD, backache from kidney infections. It is said to be ‘nature's firebreak’, as it does not burn well and therefore protects forests. It can be planted in the full sun to semi shade, in well-drained soil and needs to be watered regularly. It would do well along a stream or near a water feature. A regular light pruning will to keep it neat. It can be used in containers, for mass planting as an informal hedge and as a pioneer plant. It deserves a place in any fragrant garden and it attract birds and bees. The name is derived from the Greek hyper=above, eikon= a figure, icon, image. From the ancient practice of placing flowers above an image to ward off evil spirits.

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.

Zantedeschia albomaculata

(Arrow-Leaved Arum)

This is a summer rainfall, deciduous species from eastern Southern Africa. It is found in marshy ground on rocky or grassy mountainsides or stream banks. It is a medium/tall plant with striking arrow shaped leaves that often have white spots. The name albomaculata means "spotted with white.” It has white/creamy spathes, with a dark throat. This attracts the pollinators which are either spiders or beetles. Lydenberg in Mpumalange is home to 4 Zantedescia species. The Zulu women use a decoction of the plant to treat women who have frequent miscarriages and give birth to weak babies. The flowers are suitable for the vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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