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Cussonia spicata

(Common Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is fast growing in the sun. The green/yellow flowers open in Autumn. This decorative tree is a lovely form plant with bright green leaves crowded at the tips of the branches and long bare stems. The fruit are fleshy and purple when ripe and they attract birds and butterflies. Ideal for a small garden but it does have aggressive roots so don’t plant less than 5 meters from a wall or a pool. It requires good drainage and thrives on lots of compost. The Leaves are browsed by elephant and kudu and people eat the roots to obtain moisture. The roots and bark are also eaten by black rhino, baboon and bushpigs. It is frost tender in cold gardens. An infusion of the root is used medicinally for malaria, stomach complaints and V D. The roots are also chewed for virility and strength. They taste similar to sugar cane. The grated bark is used in hot water to make a poultice for cramp and muscle spasm. This solution is also used to bath newborn babies to ensure a strong child and prevent skin rashes and pimples. Some folk believe that it one is planted near the homestead, it will ensure fat, healthy children. Dried flowers are added to snuff. The leaves are used as a fish poison but are palatable to cattle and goats. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

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.

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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