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Bauhinia tomentosa

(Yellow Tree Bauhinia)

This small deciduous tree is evergreen if planted in a mild climate. It grows moderately fast and has non-aggressive roots. They grow naturally in the Transvaal and Natal. It is both frost and drought resistant. It grows happily in semi-shade or full sun. The marvellous yellow flowers have a brown throat and they open in summer. They are rich in pollen and nectar and are enjoyed by grey louries. They attract various insects such as butterflies and bees. The stems are used for baskets and hut rafters. It responds well to pruning and makes a successful hedge. I've seen them hedged at about 1 meter and 2-3 meters. The leaves are browsed by black rhino, grey duiker and kudu. It has non aggressive roots and is great in a small townhouse garden, in a pot on a patio or next to a swimming pool. It is used medicinally as the bark is used as a vermifuge, the stems are used as an astringent gargle and the flowers are used for dysentery and diarrhea. A light annual pruning encourages flowering. It is the larval host plant for the Orange-barred Playboy butterfly.

Calpurnia aurea

(Wild Laburnum)

This tree occurs in Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Natal, Eastern Cape, Transkei and Swaziland. A small evergreen, drought and frost hardy tree is suitable for townhouse gardens, in a pot or used as a hedge. It is quite fast growing and starts flowering quite early. Pruning stimulates flowering. It can grow in almost any soil as long as it has good drainage. It produces golden-yellow flowers that closely resemble the flowers of Laburnum, which is why Calpurnia aurea is commonly described as Wild Laburnum. It blooms in mid-summer for a long period of time. Flowers are followed by fruit which are thin pods. The tree is easy to prune and maintain and can be grown is a sunny or partially sunny spot. They grow to about 3 meters. It attracts birds and butterflies and is eaten by Dassies. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees. It is a medicinal plant as it is used to treat maggot infections and crushed roots are used to treat lice. Named after the Roman poet, Calpurnius and the Latin aurea =golden, referring to the flowers. It occurs from the Eastern Cape, KZN, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.

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.

Diospyros whyteana

(Bladder-Nut)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and prefers a semi-shade position. The white/yellow flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. It is useful for a formal pruned hedge or informal hedging/screening. It does well in a container or as a bonsai. Browsed by stock and kudu, nyala, klipspringer and greysbok. The fruit is beautidul and distinctive as it fades from green to reddish brown. The seeds are roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. The leaves and roots are used medicinally to treat a rash. The wood is hard and is used for furniture. This is my personal choice for a small garden as it has lovely autumn foliage, glossy green leaves, non aggressive roots and a neat growth habit. You can plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool. It is the larval host for butterflies.

Dodonaea angustifolia

(Sand Olive)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, and fast growing in the sun. It has yellow flowers in autumn which attract butterflies, nesting birds and insect eaters. This neat tree works very well as a formal pruned hedge or as an informal screen. It also has many medicinal uses as the bark is used to treat wounds and abdominal pain. Smoke from the burning roots is inhaled to treat headaches, bronchitis and colds. Roots, leaves and twigs are soaked in water and this water is then used to treat colds, flu, fever, stomach trouble, measles and arthritis. Roots boiled in water is used by women after child birth to stimulate breast milk. Leaves are pounded and steeped in water and then used for diarrhea. It has anti-fungal, antiviral and properties. Good for a container as it has non aggressive roots so it can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool. The Sand Olive is ideal for small gardens and is used to stabilize sandy areas. It was named after Dr Rembert Dodonaeus 1517 - 1585. He studied medicine and was a Flemish Physician, herbalist, He also studied cosmography and geography. He was the emperor's physician and professor at Leiden University. He wrote the most comprehensive book on herbs which was the most translated book after the Bible.

Dovyalis zeyheri

(Wild Apricot)

This a small to medium sized, evergreen tree grows from 2-13m. The stem can be single or multi-stemmed. The bark is a light grey-brown and it becomes rough and flaking on older trees. The flowers are small and greenish yellow. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees from August to December. The fruits are found only on female trees. They are bright orange and oval in shape with a velvety texture. They reach up to 25 mm long and appear from November to May. The wild apricot is a good tree for wild fruit which tastes sour but refreshing and is eaten by people and animals. The fruit makes a good jelly but some sweetening is required. The thorns which provide protection for birds' nests, along with the fruit make this an excellent wildlife garden tree. The caterpillars of the African Leopard Butterfly feed on the leaves. In the garden, the wild apricot is tolerant of moderate frost, although young plants should be protected for the first two years. It is also drought resistant and grows well in either full sun or light shade. It grows well in sandy or loamy soil to which compost has been added. Because of its non aggressive roots system its an ideal plant for containers. A lovely shrub/tree for birds and butterflies.

Dracaena aletriformis

(Large-Leaved Dragon Tree)

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.

Duvernoia now called Justicia aconitifolia

(Lemon Pistol Bush)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant and drought resistant. It prefers a shade or semi-shady spot. The lemon yellow flowers are small and occur in Autumn-Summer. This shrubby tree attracts nesting birds and butterflies. It is wonderful for hedging/screening. Named for Johan Georg Duvernoy (1692-1759) a German botanist and surgeon.

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.

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.

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

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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