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Salix mucronata

(Safsaf Willow)

This graceful semi-deciduous to evergreen tree grows to 15m with an open crown and slightly drooping branches. Older trees have beautiful fissured, brown bark, while younger trees have smooth, green-red bark. The leaves are simple, alternate and taper to both ends. They are glossy, dark green above and light green below. The leaf margins are serrated. They are browsed by stock, hippo, nyala, kudu, grey duiker and bushbuck. The African leopard butterfly's larvae also feeds on the leaves. Flowers appear in short spikes with males and females on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, yellowish and can be up to 50mm in length. The greenish coloured female spikes are shorter and thicker. The flowing season is in summer. Monkeys eat the flowers. The fruit is a small capsule, which splits to release seeds covered with white fluff. Traditional uses include, applying bark powder to burns, and brewing tea from the leaves to treat rheumatism and malaria headaches and it is a mild laxative. This tea is also used as a skin lotion and to stimulate hair growth.It is also drunk as an appetizer. The Zulu tie the thin branches around their waist to treat abdominal and kidney pains and to give them strength.Young tree branches are used to make baskets, fire by friction and covered in a protective mixture to ward off storms and lightening. The wood is carved to make household, as well as decorative items. The tree can withstand both frost and drought. It is a water loving tree so plant it near a pond or dam but it may have aggressive roots. It will attract herons, darters and cormorants which will use the Salix for breeding. The name is derived from the Latin salia=willow, implying to spring or to leap. Willow branches are very flexible and when bent and released, they spring forward.

Wachendorfia thrysiflora

(Blood Root)

Wachendorfia thrysiflora or Blood root has very distinctive leaves that are pleated. The flower spike can grow to 1.5m and is covered in star shaped yellow flowers. It occurs in the winter rainfall areas so would need watering during the winter on the Highveld. It has beautiful red colouration on the bottom of the stems and their roots are red as indicated by their common name. A very dramatic plant and worth planting near a pond, water feature or dam. This an easy plant to grow and is ideally suited to marshy or swampy conditions in full sun or semi-shade, but will also grow in soil that is not waterlogged provided it gets ample water particularly during winter and spring. A generous mulch of compost is also very beneficial. It is evergreen if it is given water all year round, but if given total summer drought it may die down and go dormant. Wachendorfia thyrsiflora is invaluable in difficult, permanently wet areas, is an attractive addition to the water garden where it can be planted at the waters edge or where the water overflows, and it makes an excellent backdrop to the herbaceous border. It attracts birds and butterflies. Named for Evert Jacob van Wachendorff (1702-1758)

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