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Adansonia digitata

(Baobab)

The enormously fat trunk is the hallmark of the mature tree, the effect being enhanced by the comparatively sparse branches. This is a protected tree in South Africa. Beautiful large, 12 cm , waxy, sweetly scented white flowers with delicately crumpled petals and big yellow stamens occur and are followed by bulbous, egg shaped, woody fruits with a velvet look. The flowers open at night in summer and attract fruit bats and bush babies. It is very drought hardy and it can grow in clay soil. It is a very useful tree as the bark is used for rope, paper, fishing lines, nets, cloth and beautiful baskets. The wood is soft and fibrous and is used for ceiling boards and paper. The wood is salty when burnt and this is added to food. The leaves are edible either raw or cooked as a spinach.They are also medicinal and used to treat fevers or as a poultice on sores and scratches. The pith of the fruit is made into a porridge for mothers with insufficient breast milk. It is fire resistant. The fruits contain tartaric acid and are delicious and the fruit pulp makes a refreshing drink which is high in vitamin C. They contain more calcium than milk, more iron than red meat, more potassium than a banana and more magnesium than spinach.The seeds are eaten raw, or dried and are also roasted and used as a coffee substitute.The seeds are also rich in Vitamin D and are used in beauty products. The fruit is eaten by baboon and monkeys. Superstitions: It is believed that if one drinks the water in which the seeds have been soaking, one is protected from crocodiles. An acid porridge is made from the pith and this makes one strong and brave. It is believed that the evil spirits that live in the flowers will tell the lion to eat whoever picks a flower. In Zambia the women are forbidden to eat the fruit during the beer brewing as it would cause the beer to go bad. It attracts birds, bees, butterflies and mammals. It is a good fodder tree for impala, kudu, nyala and elephant. The roots and trunk can be tapped as a source of water and one tree can supply 1000 gallons of water. The young roots are cooked and eaten. The bark is pinkish - grey. The Champion tree in South Africa is the Sagole Baobab which is in the Big Tree Nature Reserve, 100 km north of Thohoyandou in Limpopo. It has a trunk diameter of 10,47 meters, a height of 22 meters and a crown diameter of 38,2 meters. It is estimated to be several thousand years old. In 1862 Thomas Baines commented on a fallen Baobab near Nxai Pan in Botswana. He painted that group of trees and they are now called 'Baines Baobabs'. That fallen one is still growing after all these years. Recently Prince Charles asked to be taken there as he wanted to paint them in watercolour. Warning - this tree grows in the hot areas of South Africa with minimal rain and is not suited for a Highveld garden. It would need to be protected if planted here. Mankind has used hollow Baobabs for storage, domes, prison at the Kasane police station, bars like the Muchison Club, burial sites and hideaways. During world war 2 Major Trollip built an operating toilet in a Baobab at Katima Mullilo and it is now known as The Toilet Tree.The wood is very soft and is used in the manufacture of paper. Birds such as Rollers, Hornbills, Parrots and Barn Owls nest in the trunk recesses. The tree is also used by Leopard and Spotted Genet. It was named after Michael Adanson 1727-1806 who was a French botanist and naturalist. He published monographs of the Baobab. Digitata comes from the Latin digitus=finger which refers to the composition of the leaflets.The origin of the word Baobab is found in the Egyptian name Bu hobab given to it by Cairo merchants who dealt in exotic products during the 16th century. David Livingstone referred to it as "that giant upturned carrot". It is also referred to the "upside down tree." It is used medicinally to treat fevers and diarrhoea.

Aloe speciosa

(Tilt-Head or Spanish Aloe)

This is an evergreen shrub that grows from 3 to 6m in height and can take full sun. It is drought resistant, grows well in most areas, even where moderate frost occurs and is ideal for water-wise gardens .It also appears to be the most unaffected by aloe snout beetles due to its peculiar leaf sap chemistry.Its makes lovely pink flowers which are rich in nectar, attracting sunbirds, bees, butterflies and ants .The leaves also produce pink dye . The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel. Speciosa refers to the 'handsome, showy, splendid flowers.

Cotyledon orbiculata

(Pigs Ears)

Pig’s Ear. Named from the Greek 'kotyledon'=seed sheath and 'kotyl'= cup referring to the bowl or spoon shaped seed leaves. This fast growing succulent has thick leaves that are greyish green. The tall flower spikes produce bunches of pink tubular flowers in winter. These attract bees and nectar feeding birds like the sunbirds. The leaves are used medicinally for corns, boils and warts and the leaf juice is used to treat earache, toothache and epilepsy. Syphilis is treated with an enema made from the leaves. They are also dried and used as a protective charm for an orphan child. Carl Pappe, a physician came to the Cape in 1831 and he studied the medicinal benefits for epilepsy. He wrote Indigenous Plants Used as remedies by the Colonists of The Cape of Good Hope in 1847. These plants have escaped from gardens in Australia, New Zealand and California and become an invasive weed, probably because they require very little water. It is the larval host for two moth species as well as Pale Hairtail, Burnished Opal, Natal Opal, Common Black-eye, Henning's Black-eye and the Cape Black-eye.

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.

Erythrina lysistemon

(Common Coral Tree)

Occurs on the Witwatersrand, Swaziland, Transkei and Natal. It is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers in winter-spring. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees. The red flowers are show stoppers and are loved by nectar feeding birds and bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. Monkeys eat the flower buds. The roots are aggressive therefore plant it 6 meters from buildings, pools and roads. Plant it in full sun and be aware that it is frost sensitive when young so do protect them from frost. This tree is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The bark is medicinal for toothache, to treat wounds, arthritis, earache and strips of the bark are used to tie bundles of herbs. Chiefs use the bark mixed with the root of the Cussonia as a purifying emetic. A branch is planted on the deceased's grave as this is said to protect the person in the afterlife. There are trials underway as the seed is said to be a painkiller. The leaves are used to ease the healing of sores, or boiled in water to make ear drops. The fresh leaves are also placed in the shoes to treat tired feet and cracked heels. The leaves are browsed by Black Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Nyala, and Klipspringer, so it's great for a game farm. The seeds are eaten by Cape Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots. The wood is prone to wood-borer so the woodpeckers enjoy them.The roots are eaten by bushpigs and porcupines. The Lucky Bean seeds are put into wallets to bring luck. Branches can be cut and planted as living fence poles. Drought resistant. This is a popular bonsai subject. We planted one next to a Dombeya rotudifolia and as they flower simultaneously in early spring, it is a joy to behold! The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

Felicia amelloides

(Blue Felicia)

A lovely shade of blue. There are very few blue indigenous flowers compared to the other colours. There is also a white form. They are fast growing, frost and drought hardy and will do well in full sun or semi shade. They attract the insect and nectar feeding birds as well as butterflies. It’s a great ground cover for a small garden, in pots or hanging baskets. Mass planted it’s stunning. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Felicia amelloides alba

(White Felicia)

This care free, dependable, evergreen, small shrub is well worth planting, especially in a townhouse garden. It has sturdy stems and bright green leaves with a rough surface and pure white daisy flowers with yellow centre. It grows to approximately 0.5 x 0.5 and spreads quickly. Flowering starts in spring and continues on and off all year. It is drought and wind tolerant. An excellent groundcover for small garden and it an ideal plant for hanging basket or containers. It attracts bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

Felicia amelloides variegata

(Variegated Felicia)

Evergreen groundcover that grows to 0.5 x 0.5. It has small ovate green leaves with cream margins and in summer it produces light blue flowers with yellow centres. This care free, dependable, evergreen, small shrub is well worth planting, especially in a townhouse garden. It grows to approximately 0.5 x 0.5 and spreads quickly. Flowering starts in spring and continues on and off all year. It is drought, frost and wind tolerant. An excellent groundcover for small gardens and it an ideal plant for hanging basket or containers. It attracts bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin felix=happy which probably refers to the cheerful flowers.

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.

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. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. The Hawk moths pollinate the flowers. Margaret Roberts suggests planting it up a twirley dryer to create a shady, sweetly scented spot to sit. She also suggests that the dried flowers make an excellent digestive tea. The flowers are also used in a bath vinegar. 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.

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.

Salvia africana lutea

(Brown Salvia)

This is an aromatic, evergreen, hardy shrub with unusually coloured flowers borne over a long period of time. It is fairly fast-growing and very attractive to wildlife. This is an excellent choice for coastal gardens, as it prefers light, well-drained soil and full sun. It tolerates strong winds, and is drought resistant. They are cultivated successfully further inland and upcountry, and it is capable of sprouting from its rootstock and recovers from frost damage. It prefers a warm sheltered spot in the garden if you live in a frosty area. Flowering begins in early spring, and the bright yellow flowers soon fade to rusty-orange and then reddish brown. After the petals fall, the saucer-like calyx, which becomes papery with age, remains as an added attraction. The flowers are both attractive and a curiosity. . They are sweetly scented and attract sunbirds and moths.It is the larval host plant to the Mocker Blue, Sabi Smoky Blue, Graham's Blue. Ketsi Blue and Variable Blue butterflies. A tea is brewed to treat coughs, colds, liver and digestive problems and female ailments and bronchitis. The name comes from the Latin 'salvere' meaning to save or to heal and 'lutea' comes from the fact that the flowers are yellow when they open.

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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