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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.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow pompom flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. This tree has pairs of straight thorns.The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache, dysentery, diarrhoea, loss of blood and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. 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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