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Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. It is put into boats to protect them from crocodiles. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

Leonotis leonurus

(Wild Dagga)

Another drought hardy, evergreen shrub that is very dependable. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in our grasslands. It is fast growing and there are yellow, orange or white flowering forms. The flowers are good for the vase but you do want to leave many on the bushes as they attract the sunbirds and the insect eaters. They are also good for a butterfly garden as they are the larval host for the Bush Bronze butterfly. They flower in autumn and will need cutting back at the end of winter. A must for a bird garden as once you get to recognize the sunbirds chirping, you will be very pleased that you are making them happy. It has been admired since 1652 and was growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 1712. It is called Wild Dagga as the Khoi smoked the dried leaves and it was said to be narcotic. It is considered to be a miracle plant as it is used medicinally to reduce blood pressure, for arthritis, sores that will not heal, athletes foot and nits. The leaves are used for headaches, coughs, colds, convulsions, weak joints, cataracts, hemorrhoids, a diuretic and for obesity. The roots are used for snake bite and to keep snakes away. The flowers are used for asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest problems, bronchitis, tapeworm, TB, jaundice, skin diseases, muscular cramps, bee and scorpion stings. A wealth of uses. It is now planted in Australia. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor.

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