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Dichrostachys cinerea

(Sickle Bush)

This is a small deciduous tree which is water wise and grows to 5 metes, happily in the sun. The pink/yellow flowers are fragrant and appear in spring and resemble a ballerina with a pink skirt and yellow legs. The name Dichrostachys means two coloured spikes. The Shona name, Mapangara means 'the tree that provides tassels for the chief's hat'. In Botswana it is called 'the Kalahari Christmas tree'. The fine foliage resembles that of the Umbrella Thorn, The tightly twisted pods also resemble those of the Umbrella Thorn.The leaves and pods are eaten by Rhino, Monkeys, Giraffe, Bushpig, Impala, Nyala, Kudu, Elephant and Buffalo so it's great for a game farm. It makes a great thorny, security barrier but the spines are lethal to tyres. Durable hard wood is used for termite resistant fencing posts, and firewood which burns slowly. The inner bark is tough and pliable and is used to make twine and strong rope. The flexible branches are used as hunting bows in the Kalahari. All parts of this tree are used medicinally. The leaves are used for sore eyes, wound cleaning, headaches and toothache while the roots are chewed and placed on snake bites and scorpion stings. This is useful to know when one is hiking in the bush.The root is considered to be a pain killer and is used after giving birth. This tree is used for urinary problems, eye wash, catarrh, bronchitis, pneumonia, a purgative, sore throat, VD, syphilis and an aphrodisiac. It is drunk as a tea or used topically. The dried leaves and roots are burnt and the smoke is inhaled to relieve chest complaints and a blocked nose.It is drought resistant and a good bonsai subject. It attracts many insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is anti-witchcraft and is planted at the homestead as a protective charm. A medicine horn filled with dried parts is used to protect one from snake bite. The roots are non aggressive. This is the larval host plant for the Satyr Emperor and Topaz Blue butterflies and 3 moth species. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'chroos'=colour and 'stachys'= spike referring to the bicoloured flower.

Dracaena aletriformis

(Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, Grootblaardrakeboom)

This small evergreen tree will thrive in shade. It produces masses of orangy/yellow/white flowers in spring which are sweetly scented at night and attract nocturnal insects like the Hawk Moth which is the pollinator. They are followed by orange fruit which attract birds - insect eaters and fruit eaters like pigeons, louries and black-eyed bulbuls. It also attracts butterflies which feed on the leaves The Bush Nightfighter butterfly larvae wraps a part of the leaf over itself and comes out at night to feed on the leaves. Field mice and birds, like the Natal Robin nest in the leaves. It is a stunning, dramatic foliage plant which can be grown indoors if there is enough air flow or in a pot on a shady patio as it has non aggressive roots. It is frost tender so choose a protected spot close to the house where the building will provide protection. The name is derived from the Greek drakaina=a female dragon.

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.

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.

Ochna serrulata

(Mickey Mouse Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and thrives in sun or semi-shade. The young spring foliage is a beautiful pinkish-bronze, maturing to glossy green. This beautiful shrub is covered with fragrant, beautiful yellow flowers that fade to red and are followed by black seeds which look like Mickey Mouse’s face. They attract fruit eating birds. It has spread all over the world and is invasive in Hawaii and Australia. It is frost hardy but slow growing. It’s useful for informal hedging/screening as well as bonsai specimens. It is medicinal as it is used to treat infections and magical as is used as an antidote to evil spirits. It has been grown in England since 1820. It is the larval host plant of the Karkloof Emperor and the Marieps Emperor butterflies. the name is derived from the Greek Ochne = wild pear; referring to the leaves that resemble those of the pear tree.

Phyllanthus reticulatus

(Potato Bush)

This is a branched shrub, sometimes partially scrambling, usually 1-5 m high, or a small twiggy tree that grows to 8 m in height. The bark is light reddish-brown or grey-brown with hairy stems when young, which become smooth with age.The leaves are alternate along slender branches. They are up to 25 cm long and appear as leaflets of large pinnate leaves. The leaves are thinly textured, usually hairless. They have a noticeable reddish net-veining which is more visible above than below. The leaves are browsed by game. It is usually a dense deciduous shrub or small tree with a distinct, potato smell that is emitted by the minute flowers when they open towards the early evening. It flowers from September to October. Potato bush grows best in deep moist soil, but can also tolerate sandy soil. It does not do well in dry conditions and that is probably the reason why so many of us have been unsuccessful keeping it alive on the Highveld. This plant is best planted together with other taller bushes where it can scramble. The fruit produces black dye and are loved by birds, small antelope and monkeys. It is used medicinally for a large variety of ailments. Root bark infusions are used to conceal secrets from diviners and also to give clear visions. Bark and leaves are used as a diuretic. Powdered leaves are put onto sores and burns while the twigs are used as toothbrushes. The roots and fruits have been used in criminal poisoning in Zambia. It is the larval host plant to 1 moth specie and the Albatros White butterfly. The name is derived from the Greek phyllon =leaf; anthos= a flower. In some species the flowers are born on leaf-like branches.

Pittosporum viridiflorum

(Cheesewood)

An evergreen tree that can reach 10m and is protcted in South Africa. They occur over a wide range of altitudes and in a variety of habitats. It does occur on the Highveld but is not common.The leaves are simple and a dark green to bluish green, but appear brilliant green when seen against the sun. They are eaten by cattle, goats, grey duiker, kudu, klipspringer, nyala and bushbuck. The cream/yellow flowers open in spring and are sweetly honey scented. They attract a number of insects and therefore also the insect eating birds.The fruits are bright red seeds which are coated in a sticky resin and enjoyed by doves, pigeons, louries, barbets, bubuls and starlings. Guinea fowl and francolin enjoy the fallen fruit. The bark has a sweetish smell, but a bitter taste and it is medicinal as it is used to treat stomach complaints, pain, malaria and fever. The dried bark is taken in beer as an aphrodisiac. It is also used as a protection charm to protect patients from witchcraft. It is frost hardy and requires full sun.Ideal for containers as it does not have aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek pitta = pitch; spora= seed. The seed is covered in a dark, sticky resin.

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.

Searsia dentata ( Rhus dentata )

(Nana-Berry)

A deciduous shrub to small tree up to 6 m high, with a smooth, greyish brown bark. The leaves, which are pink when young, turn dull yellow to orange-red in autumn. The small, yellowish green flowers are borne in clusters at the end of the branches from September to November, and this species has male and female flowers on different plants. The flowers are followed by the shiny, bright red fruits, in heavy clusters from November to January on the female plants. This species grows in almost any kind of soil. Young plants need lots of water but once they are established, they do not need much. These plants are therefore good subjects for water-wise gardening. This shrub does well in a cool soil, with a thick layer of leaf mulch on top. It prefers sun or semi-shade. It is frost and drought hardy and makes a beautiful container plant. It attracts birds and other insects. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. 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. Add new comment

Senecio tamoides

(Canary Creeper)

A vigorous fast-growing climber which has semi-succulent stems and leaves. It has a spread of 4 x 2 m. It is mostly evergreen, but during severe winters or in areas that suffer from frost, it will react deciduously, dying back and then recovering beautifully again in the spring. The light green, shiny, fleshy leaves resemble those of ivy in that they are roughly triangle-shaped with unequal lobes and are attractive all year round. The wonderfully bright canary yellow daisy flowers are borne massed in clusters during late summer and autumn .making a lovely show; they also have a delightful aromatic scent. The seeds are typical of the daisy family-fluffy and creamy white. The canary creeper is a frost tolerant, fast-growing garden plant that grows easiest in full sun, in well-drained composted garden soil against a wall or fence. Feed regularly to encourage good health. Water sparingly as this plant is semi-succulent and can tolerate long periods of dryness once it is established. It prefers a warm climate, and dies back in colder climates but will recover quickly and easily; prune away any frost damaged parts. There is nothing more stunning than a sheer drop of masses of golden yellow flowers and this creeper literally drips with flowers when in full bloom. In traditional medicine it is used to treat anthrax in cattle and flatulence. The flowers attract butterflies and the larvae of the Tricoloured Tiger and Delegorgue's Prince Moth feed on Senecio species. The name is derived from the Latin senex=an old man. The white hairy pappus (scales or bristles) of the seed is reminiscent of an old man's beard.

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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