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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'.

Carissa macrocarpa

(Large Num-Num, noem-noem)

This small evergreen tree grows to about 4 meters and is water wise. It flourishes in the sun or semi-shade. Fragrant white flowers occur from spring to mid-summer and they attract insects, butterflies and insect eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. This shrub is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is suitable for containers and coastal gardens as it tolerates wind and salt spray. It is a low maintenance plant. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked to produce a jam, chopped into salads, jelly or bredies. They produce pink dye. Macrocarpa means 'large fruit'. The root is used medicinally for coughs, a tonic or for VD. I stick is used in a hut to repel snakes and they are planted near the homestead for protection. In West Africa the roots are used to flavour stews and a piece of root and leaf is placed in water containers to keep it fresh. On the Highveld do plant it in a protected spot as they are frost tender when young.

Clausena anisata

(Horsewood)

A deciduous, small, neat and attractive tree. It is often maligned, as the crushed leaves give off a strong, aniseed-like scent which is considered by many to be unpleasant. In some plants the smell is pleasant but in others it's Afrikaans common name ‘Perdepis’, meaning 'horse urine' is most descriptive. The ripening fruits which turn from red to black are much loved by birds and are very attractive. It produces yellow flowers in spring and they attract insects which in turn attracts the insect eating birds. This tree deserves a spot in any garden but don't crush the leaves if you find the scent objectionable. It has non-aggressive roots system and the leaves are used to flavour curry.It is medicinal and is used for internal parasites, fevers and heart ailments. The leaves are burnt as a mosquito repellent and sticks are used as toothbrushes. The leaves are used to make a tea to strengthen the blood and it has a host of medicinal and magical uses. The wood is used for sticks and hut building. Steam for the twigs and leaves is used to strengthen Xhosa babies. This is the larval host to two moth species and the Citrus, Constantine, Emperor, Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded Swallowtail butterflies.Named for Peder Claussen Friis ( 1545-1614) who was a Norwegian parish priest and a naturilist. He had a great interest in geography, history and ancient languages and wrote prolifically.

Combretum bracteosum

(Hiccup Nut)

The hiccup nut is a usually a shrub or small tree which scrambles into nearby vegetation. It grows up to between 2 and 4 m high, although if it has support from other trees it can reach up to 8 m. It spreads to between 4 and 5 m wide. The showy, scented flowers are bright red but differ from those of other Combetum in that the petals are obvious and are responsible for most of the colour. Flowering occurs in spring, followed by the edible fruit which is not at all like the other Combretums as it is nut shaped. Hence the common name. It is not known whether the nuts cause or cure hiccups. The nuts are edible once roasted. It likes a warm summer with a moderate of high rainfall. It should be planted in a full sun or semi-shade and it an ideal plant for screening and hedging. It also attracts birds and Striped Policeman and the Spotted Sailor butterflies and a moth specie as this is their larval host.

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks!The roots and twigs are antimicrobial. An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

Diospyros simii

(Climbing Star-Apple)

An evergreen small sized tree. It is a drought resistant, fast growing and it grows well when planted in the sun or semi shade. It produces white flowers in Spring which are visited by butterflies and these are followed by edible fruits which are orange. They are about 3 cm in diameter and are attractive as well as attracting fruit eating birds.This is also a great little tree for a butterfly garden as it is the larval host for butterflies.

Dovyalis caffra

(Kei Apple)

This small 5m evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The cream flowers are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies, and are produced in spring and are followed by apricot fruit which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like the Louries and black eyed Blackeyed Bulbuls. It should produce fruit when about 3 years old.It makes a safe nesting site. It is useful for an informal hedge/screen or a thorny security barrier as they retain their lower branches and can be planted close together as they do not have aggressive roots. The fruit is also useful as it is rich in vitamin C and although sour it is tasty and is eaten raw or used for jelly and jam making. It is eaten by Monkeys and Baboon. The trees are also browsed by game. The Kei Apple will do well in a container and is popular for bonsai. The branches are also used in flower arrangements.The oval leaves are shiny, dark green with a smooth margin. It is successful if planted in a coastal garden or in a Highveld garden. This tree was first grown in Europe in 1870 but is now grown worldwide, in California, the Mediterranean and Australia. Plant it 2 meters from buildings and pools. The name is derived from the Greek dovyalis = spear refering to the long thorns.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Erythrophysa transvaalensis

(Transvaal Red Balloon)

This is a deciduous shrub or small tree which grows up to 4 m high and 5 m wide. The attractive flowers are produced in erect panicles before or with the new leaves. They are green, suffused with red. The flowers have four clawed petals and straight, protruding stamens. The fruit is a large, balloon-like structure, three-angled, with three chambers. The flowers open in spring and are quite spectacular. Plant it in a full sun or even in semi-shade near swimming pools or in a big pot. The large black seeds are used by African woman to make beads. It attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek erythros=red and physos=bladder referring to the red balloon fruits.

Gardenia cornuta

(Natal Gardenia)

An evergreen, multi-branched small tree 3 to 5 meters tall, with erect and spreading main branches. The branchlets sometimes have thick thorns. The bark is smooth, often flaking into thin peels. Leaves are smooth, glossy green and crowded at the ends of twigs, usually in whorls of three. These are browsed by game. The fragrant flowers are solitary at the ends of short, rigid branches and are borne from November to March. They are white turning yellow, short-stalked, with a long, slender greenish tube and spreading white lobes. Fruits are more or less pear-shaped, woody, tipped with persistent remains of the calyx, glossy golden yellow, usually produced in large quantities between February and August. Seeds are hard and flattened. The fruit is relished by nyala, monkeys and baboons. It should be planted in sun or semi-shade. It is useful for hedging/screening and it is ideal for containers. In traditional medicine, the fruit and roots are boiled and used as an emetic. Poles are used for fencing, for fuel.and for chasing away evil spirits. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is frost sensitive. 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. Named after Alexander Garden (1730-1791) a Scottish doctor, botanist and zoologist who lived in the USA. He studied plants and sent birds, fish, reptiles and plants to Linnaeus in England. He returned to the UK and was a Fellow of the Royal Society in London and founded The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Halleria elliptica

(Wild Fuchsia)

A beautiful, fast growing, evergreen shrub with an average size of 2.5m tall and a 1.5m spread. The purple leaves in winter that contrast well with dark red, tubular flowers which appear between winter-summer. Although it is semi-drought resistant, it responds well to regular watering and it grows in any kind of soil. It does prefer sunny conditions but does well in semi-shade. It would look good in a pot as it flowers for most of the year. Keep it pruned to retain a neat shape. It attracts birds and butterflies.

Myrsine africana

(Cape Myrtle)

This slow-growing, evergreen small shrub with a rather stiff and upright shape when old, can reach 1 to 2 m high over time. The cream-coloured flowers formed in groups at the base of the leaves in spring and the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The male flowers with their red anthers are more conspicuous than the female flowers. It is, however, the female plants that are covered with the attractive purple-coloured fruits after flowering. The fleshy, round fruits each with one seed, are formed in abundance tight against the stem and remain on the plants for many months. It grows well in dry, semi-shade under trees as well as in the full sun between plants and in a rockery. Birds love the fleshy fruits and it is the larval host plant for the Brauer's Opal and the Mooi River Opal butterflies. The leaves are used medicinally as a blood purifier. Tghe name originates from the Greek for the common Myrtle which it resembles.

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.

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