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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.

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

Searsia lancea (Rhus lancea)

(Karee)

This tree has recently changed its name from Rhus lancea. It is wide spread and is only missing from Kwazulu Natal. It grows to 5-10 meters and makes a lovely evergreen shade tree, hedge, wind break and roadside tree. It is in the top 5 frost and drought hardy trees. Our grandsons loved climbing these trees when they were little as they branch low down if left to their own devices. It attracts birds and butterflies and the fruit is enjoyed by our staff, although it is sour and it is traditionally also used to make mead or tea. It is also eaten by birds like bulbuls and the fallen fruit is eaten by guineafowl and francolins. The leaves and bark produce a brown dye. The leaves are also eaten by game like kudu, roan and sable, so it’s a good fodder tree on a game farm. This tree indicates surface or underground water and it does not have aggressive roots. The wood is used as fencing posts as it is termite proof. The bark is used for tanning. Bushmen used the branches as shepherd's crooks. It is protected in the Northern Cape and the Jacobsdal area in the Free State. It is browsed by game . Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pond. It is used medicinally as roots, stem bark and leaves treat skin diseases. Roots are used for abdominal and chest complaints and the leaves are used for measles. Their vapour is inhaled for a cough. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

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