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Carissa macrocarpa

(Large Num-Num, noem-noem)

This small evergreen tree grows to about 4 meters and is water wise. It flourishes in the sun or semi-shade. Fragrant white flowers occur from spring to mid-summer and they attract insects, butterflies and insect eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. This shrub is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is suitable for containers and coastal gardens as it tolerates wind and salt spray. It is a low maintenance plant. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked to produce a jam, chopped into salads, jelly or bredies. They produce pink dye. Macrocarpa means 'large fruit'. The root is used medicinally for coughs, a tonic or for VD. I stick is used in a hut to repel snakes and they are planted near the homestead for protection. In West Africa the roots are used to flavour stews and a piece of root and leaf is placed in water containers to keep it fresh. On the Highveld do plant it in a protected spot as they are frost tender when young.

Dichrostachys cinerea

(Sickle Bush)

This is a small deciduous tree which is water wise and grows to 5 metes, happily in the sun. The pink/yellow flowers are fragrant and appear in spring and resemble a ballerina with a pink skirt and yellow legs. The name Dichrostachys means two coloured spikes. The Shona name, Mapangara means 'the tree that provides tassels for the chief's hat'. In Botswana it is called 'the Kalahari Christmas tree'. The fine foliage resembles that of the Umbrella Thorn, The tightly twisted pods also resemble those of the Umbrella Thorn.The leaves and pods are eaten by Rhino, Monkeys, Giraffe, Bushpig, Impala, Nyala, Kudu, Elephant and Buffalo so it's great for a game farm. It makes a great thorny, security barrier but the spines are lethal to tyres. Durable hard wood is used for termite resistant fencing posts, and firewood which burns slowly. The inner bark is tough and pliable and is used to make twine and strong rope. The flexible branches are used as hunting bows in the Kalahari. All parts of this tree are used medicinally. The leaves are used for sore eyes, wound cleaning, headaches and toothache while the roots are chewed and placed on snake bites and scorpion stings. This is useful to know when one is hiking in the bush.The root is considered to be a pain killer and is used after giving birth. This tree is used for urinary problems, eye wash, catarrh, bronchitis, pneumonia, a purgative, sore throat, VD, syphilis and an aphrodisiac. It is drunk as a tea or used topically. The dried leaves and roots are burnt and the smoke is inhaled to relieve chest complaints and a blocked nose.It is drought resistant and a good bonsai subject. It attracts many insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is anti-witchcraft and is planted at the homestead as a protective charm. A medicine horn filled with dried parts is used to protect one from snake bite. The roots are non aggressive. This is the larval host plant for the Satyr Emperor and Topaz Blue butterflies and 3 moth species. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'chroos'=colour and 'stachys'= spike referring to the bicoloured flower.

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks!The roots and twigs are antimicrobial. An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

Dombeya rotundifolia

(Wild Pear)

This deciduous tree can reach 5 to 10 meters. The stem is often crooked and the rough bark is dark grey-brown. It produces lovely white pinkish scented flowers in early spring and is a striking sight. These flowers attract bees and butterflies. One of it's common names is "Bruidjie van die bosveld" because it looks like a bride clad in white. It likes summer rain and a dry winters. The leaves are thick, rough and hairy. The word rotundifolius means having round leaves. They are browsed by game, elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, sable and steenbok and the inner bark is used for twine. The bark is stripped, soaked for 2 days and then pounded with round rocks till soft and smooth. These fibres are twisted into string and rope . They are also used to bind dressings in place. The heavy wood is termite proof and is used for implement handles, fence posts and ornaments. The bark is traditionally used to relieve headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, to hasten labour and for abortions. Roots are used for abdominal upsets, colic, diarrhea and rheumatism. Root decoctions are rubbed into the body to dispel the effects of witchcraft. Makes a lovely bonsai and is cold and fire resistant. Very good street tree as it does not have aggressive roots so plant it about 3 meters from buildings and pools. Dried flowers are used in floral decorations. This is the larval host plant for the Ragged Skipper butterfly as well as 9 moth species. Named for Joseph Dombey 1742-1794, a French naturalist, physician, botanist and traveller. He researched the cinchona plant which produces quinine for malaria. He wrote numerous books that were only published once he had died. Sometimes his specimens were captured and sent to the British Museum instead of the French one. They were also confiscated. On a trip to the USA they were struck by a storm and never arrived. He was captured and imprisoned, for a ransom, in the West Indies where died in jail.

Dovyalis caffra

(Kei Apple)

This small 5m evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The cream flowers are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies, and are produced in spring and are followed by apricot fruit which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like the Louries and black eyed Blackeyed Bulbuls. It should produce fruit when about 3 years old.It makes a safe nesting site. It is useful for an informal hedge/screen or a thorny security barrier as they retain their lower branches and can be planted close together as they do not have aggressive roots. The fruit is also useful as it is rich in vitamin C and although sour it is tasty and is eaten raw or used for jelly and jam making. It is eaten by Monkeys and Baboon. The trees are also browsed by game. The Kei Apple will do well in a container and is popular for bonsai. The branches are also used in flower arrangements.The oval leaves are shiny, dark green with a smooth margin. It is successful if planted in a coastal garden or in a Highveld garden. This tree was first grown in Europe in 1870 but is now grown worldwide, in California, the Mediterranean and Australia. Plant it 2 meters from buildings and pools. The name is derived from the Greek dovyalis = spear refering to the long thorns.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Gardenia cornuta

(Natal Gardenia)

An evergreen, multi-branched small tree 3 to 5 meters tall, with erect and spreading main branches. The branchlets sometimes have thick thorns. The bark is smooth, often flaking into thin peels. Leaves are smooth, glossy green and crowded at the ends of twigs, usually in whorls of three. These are browsed by game. The fragrant flowers are solitary at the ends of short, rigid branches and are borne from November to March. They are white turning yellow, short-stalked, with a long, slender greenish tube and spreading white lobes. Fruits are more or less pear-shaped, woody, tipped with persistent remains of the calyx, glossy golden yellow, usually produced in large quantities between February and August. Seeds are hard and flattened. The fruit is relished by nyala, monkeys and baboons. It should be planted in sun or semi-shade. It is useful for hedging/screening and it is ideal for containers. In traditional medicine, the fruit and roots are boiled and used as an emetic. Poles are used for fencing, for fuel.and for chasing away evil spirits. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is frost sensitive. They have a very high spiritual vibration so they are used in love spells and to attract good spirits during rituals. Dried petals are used in incense and sprinkled on the floor to create peace. Fresh flowers are put in sick rooms. Named after Alexander Garden (1730-1791) a Scottish doctor, botanist and zoologist who lived in the USA. He studied plants and sent birds, fish, reptiles and plants to Linnaeus in England. He returned to the UK and was a Fellow of the Royal Society in London and founded The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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.

Portulacaria afra prostrata

(Elephants Foot)

Dwarf Elephants Foot is another very versatile plant that grows in full sun to deep shade. It produces lavender coloured flowers in summer. It is water wise and has arching, trailing branches with reddish brown stems. It would be ideal in a pot, to scamper over the edge, a hanging basket or even retaining walls. I saw it flourishing in the baking hot sun in the Kruger Park, in a retailing wall at one of the rest camps in very harsh conditions.

Rotheca glabrum ( was Clerodendrum glabrum)

(White Cats Whiskers)

Clerodendrum glabrum now called Rotheca glabrum White Cats Whiskers SA Tree No. 667 This small deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pretty pink flowers open in Spring. They attract butterflies, moths, bees and ants. It is the larval host plant for 11 moth species and the Natal bar and the Purple - brown Hairstreak butterflies. It is also useful as the leaves are rubbed onto the hands and face to repel bees when collecting honey. The fruit is used to make a blue dye and is eaten by birds. It is useful for hedging/screening and it has non-aggressive roots. The branches are used for poles for hut building. The wood is hard and is used to start fires. It is resistant to salt spray so is useful for coastal gardens. The medicinal properties are varied. The leaves are used to treat intestinal parasites, coughs, fevers, to aid sleep and prevent bad dreams, for rashes and toothache. When crushed, the leaves have insect-repellent qualities and are made into a lotion to prevent maggots and parasites on the wounds of animals or as a wash for tick infections. It is believed to protect against witchcraft and is considered anti viral. Pounded roots are bound over snake bites, especially Mamba bites. Its also useful on a game farm as it is browsed by game and is ideal for a small garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'kleros' meaning chance or fate and 'dendron' meaning tree. According to legend these trees possessed medicinal properties and one took a chance on them as it varied in several species.

Rothmannia globosa

(September Bells)

This little know or utilized tree has been grown in Europe for more than a century. This slender tree, usually 4-7 m in height, can reach 12 m, depending on the climatic conditions. The bark is brown or dark grey, smooth when young, but rougher in old age and marked in rectangular segments. The shiny, simple leaves are oval or lanceolate with a paler underside which displays the yellow or reddish midrib and veins. Trees are usually evergreen, but may be briefly deciduous. The scented, bell-shaped flowers are creamy white, usually with pink speckles in the throat. The flowers are almost stalkless and appear from August to November. The trees are often in full bloom in September hence the common name. The fruits are round green when young but turn brown as they ripen from January onwards. The powdered roots are rubbed into incisions in some parts of southern Africa to treat leprosy. It is fairly fast growing and tolerates some frost but protect young trees in winter. It makes a beautiful small tree for townhouse gardens and as it has non aggressive roots, it is suitable for containers. Monkeys, baboons, nyala and birds eat the fruit and it also attracts bees and butterflies.

Senecio barbetonicus

(Succulent Bush Senecio)

This neat, compact, rounded shrub has long narrow, needle-like succulent leaves that almost resemble skinny jelly beans. It grows to 1.5m high and 1.5 wide. The small sweetly scented yellow daisy flowers are displayed in spring. It grows in sun and semi-shade. It is a drought resistant and frost hardy plant. This shrub when planted in the garden requires moderate watering in summer and very little in winter. Trim it once in a while to keep it neat. It attracts butterflies and is browsed by game. The name is derived from the Latin senex=an old man. The white hairy pappus (scales or bristles) of the seed is reminiscent of an old man's beard.

Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. 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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