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Vachellia xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)

(Fever Tree)

This large sized deciduous tree is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade .It also grows well in a swampy, low lying areas and clay soils. It was originally thought that the tree caused malaria, hence it's common name. It was the swampy conditions that caused the malaria. The fragrant yellow flowers open in Spring and smell like vanilla which attracts insects and insectivorous birds. There is also a white flowering form. First hand experience shows that it has an aggressive roots system, although some books claim that they are non aggressive. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pool. The beautiful yellow bark makes it distinctive and highly sought after, but be aware that they are frost tender when young. It is a useful tree as it has medicinal bark, edible gum and the timber is used for boxwood, furniture and carving as it is hard and heavy. Elephants eat the young branches and giraffe, monkeys and baboon eat the leaves, flowers and the pods. Weavers like to build their nests in these trees, probably because the thorns help to protect them. The bark is used as a good luck charm and it is used medicinally, mixed with dried roots to treat malaria and to treat fevers and eye complaints and the bark is rolled into small balls and chewed for a cough and sore throat. Branches are used to protect fields from hippo. This is a popular bonsai subject. Unfortunately this fungal disease is rather common on Fever Trees. The fungus has been identified as a rust, similar to Uromyces. The suggestion is to totally spray the trunks with triazole type fungicides. (Defender or Bumper 30 ml per 100 L water) Probably the most popular treatment is a total drench with Trichotec --- Trichoderma spp. A living fungi that is antagonistic to many other pathogenic fungi. After the drench it is essential to cover as much of the treated trunk with newspaper to shield the Trichoderma from ultra violet light for a few weeks. Preventatively - be careful as weed-eater damage can initiate an infection. If this is not successful, call an arborist for their opinion and treatment. 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. Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Elephant's child' immortalised the specie with 'The banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with Fever Trees'.

Berchemia zeheri

(Red Ivory)

This evergreen to semi-deciduous tree is drought resistant but not frost resistant. Flowers are yellowish or greenish white, star-like in clusters on stalks 10 mm long. The flowers appear between September and December and are followed by sweet, yellow to brownish red fruit from January to April. The flowers are sweetly scented and attract various insects and bees. These attract the insect eating birds.The fruits are edible and are enjoyed by people, birds and animals. Plant it in the sun.The beautiful red wood is utilized. It is a medicinal plant and is is used as strong muthi against evil spirits. The leaves are browsed by game. The beautiful wood is used for ornaments, furniture and fence posts. Named for Jacob Peter Berthout van Berchem ( 1763-1832)

Combretum molle

(Velvet Bushwillow)

Velvet bush willow is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that grows to 13 meters with a rounded crown. It has grey bark when young and this becomes grey-brown or almost black when older. Young leaves are attractive with a light pink or orange colour. Its flowering time is Sept.–Nov. The flowers are in dense axillary spikes with a greenish yellow colour, strongly scented and attractive to bees and other insects. The fruit is light green with reddish shade which turns red-brown when dry. Dried fruit is used in flower arrangements. It is used medicinally as the boiled root decoction is used for abortions, and to treat constipation, infertility, diarrhea, bleeding after childbirth, convulsions, fattening infants, backache and for difficulty walking which is caused by sorcery, headaches, stomach aches, fever, dysentery and swellings, and as an anthelmintic for hookworm. The leaves are chewed, soaked in water and the juice drunk for chest complaints. They are also boiled and used as a hot compress for wounds and snake bites. It can also be used as an inhalant in a hot steam bath to treat headaches. It is termite-proof and can be used to make fence posts, implement handles and bowls for grinding peanuts and mealies and mortars. Red fabric dyes are made from the leaves, whereas dyes made from the roots are yellow-brown. It is browsed by game. It is the larval host plant for the Guineafowl and Morant's Skipper butterflies. Canaries strip the bark for nesting. A very useful tree.

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.

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)

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. 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.

Helichrysum splendidum

(Cape Gold)

A fast growing shrub which grows to 1,5 m x 1 m within 2 years, forming a dense grey mound. The new growth on the outside is stiff, but not woody. The older branches at the base and in the middle of the bush turn hard and brown with age. The stems are covered with a thick felt of woolly white hairs. The soft young leaves are also covered with grey woolly hairs. The leaves are aromatic with a slight camphor scent when rubbed. In mid-summer, from November to February, the shrub is covered with bright yellow flowers. The flowers have a slight sweet perfume. This easy to grow shrub requires very little maintenance provided that it is given a large enough area to spread without smothering its neighbours. Like most plants with grey foliage, Helichrysum splendidum needs to be planted in the full sun. Plant in a well-composted bed with good drainage, full sun and occasional good watering. To shape and encourage new growth, the shrub can be prune lightly after flowering.

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.

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

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

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