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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.

Harpephyllum caffrum

(Wild Plum)

This is a large, evergreen tree that grows to 15 m tall. The main stem is clean and straight, but the forest form often has supporting buttress roots. The bark is smooth when young, becoming rough, dark grey-brown with fissures as it grows older. The Zulu common name is 'crocodile skin' which refers to the bark. The branches are curved upwards, with leaves crowded towards the ends, forming a thick crown at the top of the tree. The whitish green flowers in summer are borne near the ends of the branches with male and female flowers on separate trees. The tasty, oval, plum-like fruits first appear green and then turn red when they ripen in autumn. They contain a single seed and are enjoyed by people, monkeys, bushbabies and birds, especially the Cape Parrot. The fruit makes a good wine and jelly. The bark is a popular traditional medicine. It is used to treat acne and eczema, and is usually applied in the form of facial saunas and skin washes. It is used by people with 'bad blood' that results in pimples on the face. Powdered burnt bark is used to treat sprains and bone fractures. Bark is also used for dyeing, and it has a mauve or pink colour. In some parts of the Eastern Cape, root decoctions are traditionally taken for paralysis thought to have been contracted from walking over an area that has been poisoned or polluted through sorcery. It is a good shade tree to have in a garden to attract birds and is the larval host to the Common Hairtail butterflies and 7 moth species. Be aware that it is frost tender on the Highveld. Fast growing from truncheons and popular bonsai subject. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek (h)arpago=sickle : phyllon = leaf as the leaflets are sickle shaped.

Imperata cylindrica

(Cottonwool Grass)

A water loving creeping grass that spreads with long rhizomes and can form dense stands. Cottonwool grass grows in a poorly drained damp soil such as vleis and riverbanks. White flowers open from August to June. It is hardy to frost, fast growing and should be planted in the sun or semi-shade. This is an ideal grass for wetlands. It also protects the soil from soil erosion. It is also a useful grass as it is used for thatching, making paper and fuel. The seed also attracts birds. Named after Ferrante Imperato ( 1550-1625) an Italian scholar of many subjects. He also formed a museum and studies how fossils were formed.

Jasminum multipartitum

(Starry Wild Jasmine)

This evergreen scrambler is water wise and is happy planted in the sun or semi shade. The fragrant white/pink flowers occur in spring and attract butterflies. This plant attracts birds - insect and nectar eaters and is also used for nesting sites. Plant it against a trellis on the patio where you will enjoy the fragrant flowers. It is ideal for small gardens to create a screen and is happy to be in a pot, but do provide lots of compost. It is used magically as a love charm. Mystically the dried flowers are used in love sachets, to attract wealth and encourage prophetic dreams. Fresh flowers are smelled to induce sleep. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. The Hawk moths pollinate the flowers. Margaret Roberts suggested planting it up a twirley dryer to create a shady, sweetly scented spot to sit. She also suggested that the dried flowers make an excellent digestive tea. The flowers are also used in a vinegar bath. They are pushed into a bottle of vinegar and left in the sun for a week. It is then strained and 1 cup is added to bath water or used as a hair rinse. They also make a lovely pot-pourri. The name is derived from the Persian yasmin = a fragrant shrub.

Kigelia africana

(Sausage Tree)

This large deciduous tree grows to 18m and it is very fast growing. The trunk has light brown sometimes flaky bark and supports a dense rounded to spreading crown of leathery slightly glossy foliage. The leaves are browsed by kudu and elephant. The sausage tree produces long open sprays of large wrinkled maroon or dark red trumpet–shaped flowers that are velvety on the inside and that virtually overflow with nectar. The flowers have an unpleasant smell at night which attracts the bats which pollinate them. Baboon and monkeys eat the flowers and the fallen flowers are eaten by kudu, nyala, porcupine, impala and grey duiker. Nocturnal animals like bushpig, civets also eat the flowers. The fruits are unique, huge, grey–brown and sausage like and weigh about 4- 10 kg. Plant where falling fruit will not do damage to cars. They have antibacterial properties and is said to cure skin cancer. The fruit pulp is used in the production of cosmetics. Seeds from the ripe fruit are edible if roasted but are only used as famine food. Some say that the fruit is inedible and that the seeds are poisonous when green. Hippo and giraffe also eat the seed pods. The fruit are hung in a hut to protect against whirlwinds and evil. Birds eat the seeds. It has a rather aggressive root system, so it must be planted far from buildings and swimming pools. Plant alongside rivers and dams on farms and game farms. It is also suitable for large estates and municipal parks. It attracts birds and has numerous medicinal uses from snake bite treatment, ulcers, syphillis, rheumatism, pneumonia, ulcers, epilepsy, toothache to stomach and kidney complaints. Also used to ward off evil. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac and is used to fatten babies!. Lactating mothers rub the fruit on their breasts to stimulate milk production. The boiled fruit produces a red dye. The ripe fruit is mixed with honey and the bark of the tree to ferment beer. The hard wood is used for canoes as it does not crack. The mokoro's used in the Okavango Delta are carved from straight tree trunks. It is not a good firewood but the pods are burnt during times of wood scarcity. It is a larval host to the Coast Glider butterfly and one moth specie. The tree is regarded as holy and church services are held in the shade of these magnificent tree-cathedrals. It is a protected tree in South Africa. The Mozambican name is kigeli-keia. In his diary, David Livingston described the Sausage Tree under which they camped before seeing the Victoria Falls. This was at Kazangulu where Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Caprivi meet. Kazangulu was named after this famous Sausage Tree. One African name means 'the fat tail of the sheep' and the Arabic name means 'the father of kit bags'. If somebody dies away from home, then the family bury a fruit in their memory.

Melianthus major

(Giant Honey Flower)

This evergreen shrub grows to about 2.5m high and 3.5 wide. It is an easy garden plant and is grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. It grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth. The name comes from 2 Greek words meaning honey flower.The flowers produce nectar which attracts bees, wasps, sunbirds and the Arrowhead butterflies. It is also the host plant for 1 moth specie. Cut it back after flowering to encourage new growth. Although the leaves are toxic they are used medicinally as a topical aid for pain, aches, rheumatism and backache. A gargle is used for sore throats and the liquid is used on snakebites. Warmed leaves can be bound over boils and abscesses to bring them to a head. Four leaves boiled in a big pot of water is used to treat sores and ulcers. A mixture of Meliathus , Artemesia, Khaki Bos and Leonotis leaves are brewed in boiling water and once cooled it is used to control aphids and fruit fly. An ideal plant for small garden. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

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.

Othonna carnosa

(Othonna)

A fast spreading, evergreen succulent with cylindrical grey green leaves ,an evergreen groundcover that grows about 10cm. Lovely for a large sunny rockery or for holding soil on banks or gentle slopes. The daisy shaped flowers opens all year long and it attract lots of bees and other insects. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly. It is a drought resistant plant that is easily grown and requires little attention but be careful not to over water. The name is derived from the Greek othonne = linen, cloth; referring to the soft texture of the leaves.

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.

Podocarpus latifolius

(Real Yellowwood, Opregte Geelhout)

This is a slow-growing, large, evergreen tree, which grows to between 20 and 30 m tall. It occurs naturally on misty mountain slopes with a high rainfall so it needs lots of water. It is a protected tree in South Africa. It is very long-lived and is able to withstand some frost. The unusual textural appearance of the leaves makes it a good contrast or background for other trees. The colourful receptacles of the female tree are most attractive. This tree would make an interesting container plant and can withstand short periods indoors. The leaf size and interesting bark are good characteristics for bonsai. It produces greenish flowers in spring and the wood is used for furniture. When the berry-like receptacles ripen, birds such as pigeons and turacos feed on them. They are also eaten by monkeys, bushpigs and sometimes by people. The bark is used in traditional medicine. Plant it about 4 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Polygala myrtifolia

(September Bush)

This attractive, small, evergreen shrub is able to adapt to most gardens as it is drought and frost resistant. A tough shrub suitable for coastal gardens, fynbos gardens, low maintenance and water-wise gardens. In a new garden it is excellent as a fast growing windbreak or a formal hedge.It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Its growth is a bit more lax, producing fewer flowers in the shade, but it grows happily in the difficult pockets that change from full sun to semi-shade with the seasons. It blooms throughout the year with a peak in spring ( August to October) when the plants flower profusely. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees.The fruit is a small, winged capsule which is enjoyed by doves. It is good for containers as its roots are non aggressive and it attracts butterflies like the Pea Blue..It is medicinal as the leaves are made into a poultice to treat gout.

Prunus africana

(Red Stinkwood)

This is a medium to large (10 - 20 m) handsome, evergreen tree with a spreading crown. It can become huge under frost-free conditions, but is usually medium-sized in gardens. The main stem is straight, with dark brown bark, cracking in a characteristic oblong pattern. The white flowers are scented, small, and borne singly or in sprays up to 70 mm long in October to May. The fruit is spherical, dull purplish brown, about 10 mm in diameter, in branched bunches (Sept. to Nov.). The bark is exploited in Africa on a large scale for its medicinal value. In South Africa the bark is used to treat chest pains. The bark extracts have become popular in Europe for the treatment of benign prostate hypertrophy. It is also reputed to be very poisonous and to have magical properties. The close-grained, reddish brown wood is occasionally used for furniture, although it does not season well and splits and twists, so its use is limited. The growth is rapid, up to a metre per year if the climate is temperate and the rainfall is good. It a very good tree to attract birds and butterflies. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Psychotria capensis

(Black Birdberry)

This is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 3-8 m, with a slender stem, horizontal branches and pale brown bark. The leaves are shiny, light to dark green above and paler below which are smooth and leathery. They are fairly large, 70-150 x 15-60 mm and often drooping. This very decorative shrub is a must for all frost-free gardens. It is not suitable for a Highveld garden.Not only is it a year-round attraction, either in fruit or flower and it is also easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, it is perfect for those difficult, summer-shade winter-sun spots under large trees. Plant in groups or repeat plant throughout the bed. Given a thick layer of mulch it will grow in any soil and only requires additional watering in summer and in dry conditions. It is also successfully grown in containers on balconies and patios. Golden yellow flowers are borne in flattish, terminal branched heads up to 80 mm in diameter from spring to midsummer (August to January). They are visited by bees and butterflies. The flowers are followed in late summer to winter (January to July) by large, flat clusters of pea-sized, shiny yellow fruits ripening to red or black. Birds such as the bulbuls, starlings, robins, mousebirds, white-eyes and barbets find the berries irresistible. It is used medicinally as a root infusion is given for gastric complaints. The wood is hard and fine grained. The name is derived from the Greek psychotria = vilifying, referring to the healing properties of this plant.

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