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Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

Gunnera purpensa

(Wild Rhubarb)

Gunnera purpensa Wild Rhubarb This deciduous shrub grows to about 1m in the sun. It is frost resistant and produces reddish brown flowers in spring. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or in a dam. The stems and roots are peeled and eaten and it also has medicinal value. The large leaves are 30 cm wide and are attractive next to a water feature. The leaf and flower stems can be eaten raw or cooked. The underground stem is used to promote the expulsion of the afterbirth in stock and in humans. An infusion is used to treat urinary disorders and psoriasis. It is also mixed with a Crinum bulbispermum to treat rheumatic fever pain. The roots are used to treat male and female infertility. , rheumatic fever, poor appetite, abdominal pain, colds and flu and to cleanse the blood. Named after Johan Ernest Gunnerus ( 1718-1773) who was a Norwegian clergyman, collector and scholar. He discovered many plants, birds, fish and animals. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

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.

Helichrysum petiolare balls

(Imphepho)

A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage smells of curry and consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. The grey leaves contrast beautifully in a garden as most other foliage is green. It also looks pretty planted next to Aristida junciformis grass. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flower heads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer. It is magical as the leaves and stems are burnt as incense to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is inhaled to induce a trance. Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems, a protective cleanser and treat high blood pressure. A tea is made from the leaves to treat stress,heart problems, high blood pressure, a sedative and anxiety. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever and used to fumigate sick rooms. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding and campers still do the same today. It should be planted in full sun in a well drained soil. It should always be cut back because it grows very quickly. It an ideal plant for containers and has been used extensively abroad for decades. The dried flower are also exported. It attracts butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek (h)elios=sun : chryos =gold referring to the bright yellow flowers.

Hypoxis hemerocallidea

(Star Flower)

This deciduous bulb is frost resistant, water wise and grows in full sun in our grasslands. The yellow flowers open in Spring-Summer and they attract butterflies and bees. This popular medicinal plant is used for many ailments but is threatened by harvesting. The tuberous rootstock is traditionally used. Weak infusions and decoctions of the corm are used as a strengthening tonic and during convalescence, against tuberculosis and cancer. It is also used for prostate hypertrophy, urinary tract infections, testicular tumors, as a laxative, childbirth and to expel intestinal worms. Anxiety, palpitations, depression and rheumatoid arthritis are further ailments treated with the plant. The leaves are used to make rope. The leaves and tuber are used as a dye and give a black colour, which is used to blacken floors. The star flower is a very attractive, hardy garden plant. It is drought-tolerant, frost-resistant, very easy to grow and an asset to any garden. It grows well in full sun in well-drained soil. Hypoxis hemerocallidea flowers freely throughout summer. The yellow star-like flowers are eye-catching in any setting. It is excellent for a rockery or as a border to flower beds, but is also suitable for container planting. When not in flower, the leaves are attractive and striking with their geometric triangular arrangement. The bulbs are dormant in winter and need to be kept dry. The leaves die down after the summer, but appear in later winter, often before the summer rains. The name is derived from the Greek hypo = beneath, less than; oxys- sharp pointed, sour referring to the leaves which are acid.

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.

Lampranthus sp

(Vygies)

A valuable addition to any garden as their iridescent flowers are seen in spring and summer. Their striking colours are a highlight after the drab winter garden when only the Aloes are in flower. They are all drought resistant and creep along the ground creating a carpet of striking colour. They attract butterflies and are useful in rockeries, along a path or in a hanging basket. They are frost resistant and fast growing. The leaves vary from dull ,dusty green to a bright, light green. The name is derived from the Greek lampros = bright, shining; anthos = flower; referring to the light reflecting off the glossy petals.

Ledebouria petiolata was Drimiopsis maculata

(Leopard Lily, Spotted-Leaved Drimiopsis, Little White Soldier)

This deciduous groundcover has flat, fleshy leaves which have darker translucent spots on them. The flowers are small bright white buds that turn pale green. It thrives in semi shade or deep shade. It grows to 25cm high but is dormant in winter. It is a frost resistant and drought resistant. An ideal plant for indoors and has been used in this way for decades in Europe and the UK. It occurs naturally in forests and grasslands from the Eastern Transvaal to the Transkei. It is used medicinally for stomach trouble in children. The name is derived from the Greek drimys = acrid as the roots cause inflammation and Latin as maculata = spotted which refers to the purple spots on the leaves.

Melianthus comosus

(Small Melianthus)

An evergreen, attractive multi-stemmed shrub where all the parts of the plant produce a strong, unpleasant smell when bruised, hence the Afrikaans common name, ‘Kruidjie-roer-my-nie’. The large, grey-green, serrated leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branches. The small, nectar rich bird pollinated flowers are borne in short clusters, followed by four-winged bladder capsules which are often as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. An ideal plant for a low maintenance and water wise garden. It is suitable for mixed borders and should always be cut back after flowering. It also attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant, it attracts the Arrowhead butterflies. It is medicinally used as a poultice for sores, snake bite, swelling, painful feet and bruises. The root bark is used to make a tonic and it is used in the bath to promote sweating. 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.

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.

Milletia grandis

(Umzimbeet)

It occurs in Natal and the Transkei. A deciduous medium sized tree. It is a spreading tree with a good canopy. The leaves show seasonal colour changes as the new leaves are glossy yellow the colour being almost masked by the purple-brown veins and mature leaves are conventional green. The flowers are pea-shaped, deep bright lilac or purple and cover the tree in spring. The fruits are hard, velvety, brown-coloured pods, with green and gold wefts that glint in bright sunshine. It requires full sun to semi-shade and it can survive moderate drought and frost. Baboons strip and eat the bark. The hard wood is used to make furniture, walking sticks and was used for ox wagon parts. The root is used medicinally to induce sleep and dispel worries. This is the recipe: roots are ground with Croton root, add 1 part lion fat, ground lion bone and 1 part python fat and this is burnt . The seeds and roots are used for arrow and fish poison. It is also the larval host plant for the Pondo Emperor and the Orange-barred Playboy butterflies. This is my favourite tree as the new leaves are attractive, the tree is a show stopper when in flower, the velvet seed pods are lovely as are the seeds. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Charles Millet (1792-1873) was a plant collector who worked for the Dutch East India Company in China. He collected botanical samples from China, Ceylon and Java which he sent to Kew Gardens and Cambridge University.

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.

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