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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.

Schotia brachypetala

(Weeping Boerbean)

This large, handsome, evergreen tree is drought resistant and relatively frost resistant in warm areas. It is found in riverine forests so is adaptable as it grows in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It occurs naturally in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal and Natal. The stunning rich, deep red flowers open in spring and summer and they attract birds, the insect, fruit and nectar eaters. They are also eaten by louries, parrots, baboons and monkeys. It flowers best after a long dry winter so don't be tempted to water it in the winter. The leaves are browsed by baboon, giraffe, impala, nyala and black rhino. It is also used for nesting sites and attracts Foxy and Giant charaxes butterflies. The bark is traditionally used to make sangoma's red dye and the seeds are roasted and eaten. The seeds were eaten by the early Boers. It’s a magical tree and is used to ward off evil. There are many medicinal uses as a decoction is drunk after excessive beer drinking and for heartburn, nausea and diarrhoea. The smoke from the leaves is inhaled for nose bleeds. Powdered leaves are put on ulcers to speed up healing. The bark contains tannin and is used for tanning leather. The wood is hard and is used for furniture, flooring and fuel. It’s a show stopper when in flower but do remember that it drops nectar on parked cars, hence the common name! The roots are not aggressive so plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The Tsonga common name of "Mvhovhovhoz" imitates the sound of the swarming insects at flowering. Named for Richard van der Schot ( 1730-1790) a Dutch gardener who studied at Leiden and became head gardener at the imperial Gardens at Schonbrunn. He was then asked to take a 4 year journery to Grenada, Saint Vincent, Aruba, Cuba and Curacao to collect tropical plants and 'curiosities' for the palaces natural history collection.

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