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Panicum maximum

(Guinea Grass)

This perennial, tufted grass has a short, creeping rhizome . The stems of this robust grass can reach a height of up to 2 m. A bent stems touching the ground will root and produce a new plant. The leaf is covered in fine hairs. It remains green until late into winter. Spikelets are green to purple and flowering occurs from November to July. It prefers fertile soil and is well adapted to a wide variety of conditions. It grows especially well in shaded, damp areas under trees and shrubs and is often seen along rivers. It is most frequently found in open woodland, but also grows in parts of Mixed and Sour Bushveld. It is widely cultivated as pasture and is especially used to make good quality hay. If it receives adequate water, it grows rapidly and occurs in abundance in veld that is in a good condition. It prefers shade and damp areas and will do well under trees and shrubs. Water regularly. It can be planted successfully in plant containers around the home to attract seed-eating birds like the Bronze mannikin. It is the larval host plant for the Eyed Bush Brown and the Black-Banded Swift butterflies. The name is derived from the latin panis = bread as the seed is used in bread making.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm, Wildedadelboom)

This small evergreen tree is relatively frost resistant and grows in the sun or semi-shade along river banks where it stabilizes the embankment. Yellow flowers in summer are replaced by orange seed which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters. Plant it near a water feature as an accent plant. It can also be used for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. This tree is protected in South Africa. The large leaves are woven to make baskets and mats and the sap is trapped for wine and beer making. The roots produce an edible gum which children enjoy and they contain tannin. The fibres from the fruit stems are used for brooms and the leaf midribs are used for hut building and to make fish kraal fences. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are nutritious and edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. It is used to make beer and wine. The spines are used in traditional medicine and the tree is used to treat pleurisy.The roots are eaten to aid healers. Birds, monkeys, elephant and baboons eat the ripe fruit. bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. It is the larval host for the Palm-tree Nightfighter Butterfly. The wood is light and of no use. The Caterpillar of the Skipper butterfly feed off the leaves. The Palm Swift bird uses the tree for nesting. Certainly a very useful tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name comes from the early Greeks who called a Date Palm a Phoenix. The 'reclinata' comes from the Latin "bend down' or 'bend back' which refers to the arching leaves.

Phygelius aequalis

(River Bells)

A fast growing water-loving plant with oval soft textured leaves. This herbaceous shrub grows to 2m. It will thrive when planted in rich,loamy soil with plenty of compost and it requires lot of watering in summer. If there is frost damage the plant it will recover well in spring. It also makes lovely yellow drooping tubular flowers. It is traditionally used as a charm to ward off hail damage to crops.Its looks beautiful planted next to the pond and it attract butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Phygelius capensis

(Cape Fuchsia)

A semi-evergreen shrub growing to 120 x 150 cm wide. The oval leaves are up to 9 cm .Throughout summer it produces tubular flowers which are orange-pink colour along the outside of the petals, with a yellow center. The flowers often point back towards the stem. They also surround the stem, unlike P. aequalis where the flowers appear all on one side of the stem. The plant has an exceptionally long blooming season of roughly six months, from May to November. The plant grows well in most fertile soils but may require some winter protection in colder areas. It requires full sunlight and thus is generally only an outdoor plant. It is medically used to inebriate boys during initiation ceremonies and is therefore considered to have ritual qualities. form borders. Phygelius capensis makes the ideal border plant because of its long blooming season. It attracts sun birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Salix mucronata

(Safsaf Willow)

This graceful semi-deciduous to evergreen tree grows to 15m with an open crown and slightly drooping branches. Older trees have beautiful fissured, brown bark, while younger trees have smooth, green-red bark. The leaves are simple, alternate and taper to both ends. They are glossy, dark green above and light green below. The leaf margins are serrated. They are browsed by stock, hippo, nyala, kudu, grey duiker and bushbuck. The African leopard butterfly's larvae also feeds on the leaves. Flowers appear in short spikes with males and females on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, yellowish and can be up to 50mm in length. The greenish coloured female spikes are shorter and thicker. The flowing season is in summer. Monkeys eat the flowers. The fruit is a small capsule, which splits to release seeds covered with white fluff. Traditional uses include, applying bark powder to burns, and brewing tea from the leaves to treat rheumatism and malaria headaches and it is a mild laxative. This tea is also used as a skin lotion and to stimulate hair growth.It is also drunk as an appetizer. The Zulu tie the thin branches around their waist to treat abdominal and kidney pains and to give them strength.Young tree branches are used to make baskets, fire by friction and covered in a protective mixture to ward off storms and lightening. The wood is carved to make household, as well as decorative items. The tree can withstand both frost and drought. It is a water loving tree so plant it near a pond or dam but it may have aggressive roots. It will attract herons, darters and cormorants which will use the Salix for breeding. The name is derived from the Latin salia=willow, implying to spring or to leap. Willow branches are very flexible and when bent and released, they spring forward.

Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

Trema orientalis

(Pigeonwood)

This is a fast-growing shade tree with soft foliage, best suited to gardens and streets in the warmer and wetter regions of southern Africa. Depending on climatic conditions, trees may be evergreen or deciduous. It's a good shade tree or street tree although not as tough and cold-hardy as Celtis africana (white stinkwood). In forests it is a straight, slender tree, up to 18 m on forest margins, and in the open it is wider-spreading, sometimes drooping, and in the KwaZulu-Natal bushveld it often grows as a shrub approx. 1.5 m tall. The less water it receives, the shorter it is. Flowers are small, inconspicuous and greenish, carried in short dense bunches. They are usually unisexual, i.e. male and female are separate, occasionally they are found together. Flowers appear irregularly from late winter to autumn and are pollinated by bees. Fruits are small, round and green, becoming black when ripe. They are eaten by birds like the Lesser Striped swallows, white-eyes, canaries and bats. The leaves are carried on very short stalks-this is the easiest way to tell this tree apart from the White Stinkwood whose stalks are up to 13 mm long. The leaves are browsed by kudu. The young leaves are eaten as spinach by the Zulus, who also use the roots and bark as traditional medicine. Fruit, leaves, bark, stems, twigs and seeds are used in traditional medicine in West Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Madagascar.It is a food plant of several charaxes butterflies. The wood is used as box wood and the roots bind the soil. The name is derived from the Greek trema=aperture. hole, opening. The kernel of the fruit is pitted.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

Zantedeschia rehmanni

(Pink Arum)

This small arum only grows to 30 cm in rocky grassland. The leaves are lance shaped and the delicate flowers are white, pale pink, dark pink and purple. They open from September to February. It is one of the 4 species of Arums that grow in the rocky grasslands around Lydenberg, Mpumalanga. The rocks help to prevent the porcupines from eating the tubers. They are threatened as they have been exploited for the horticultural trade. The flowers are suitable for the vase. There is a large pale pink form that looks like a cross between the Z rehmanni and the Z aethiopica which is called Z 'Marshmallow'. It's very pretty and also does well as a cut flower. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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