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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.

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.

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.

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. Mystically the dried flowers are used in love sachets, to attract wealth and encourage prophetic dreams. Fresh flowers are smelled to induce sleep. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. The Hawk moths pollinate the flowers. Margaret Roberts suggested planting it up a twirley dryer to create a shady, sweetly scented spot to sit. She also suggested that the dried flowers make an excellent digestive tea. The flowers are also used in a vinegar bath. 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.

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.

Tabernaemontanum elegans

(Toad Tree)

This small shrub/tree is deciduous to evergreen depending on the climate and frost. The trunk is usually single, upright, with a rounded crown. The foliage is glossy dark green and in autumn the leaves change to bright yellow. The white, fragrant flowers clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring to autumn. The fruit, which resembles a toad, are eaten by monkeys, baboons, rhino. birds and people. The orange fruit pulp is considered to be edible and is also used to curdle milk, whereas the roots are used for chest problems. The latex has been used to stop bleeding and is also reported to be useful as bird lime. It attract birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by game and the bark protects the tree from fire. Named for Jakob Theodor von Bergzaben (1522-1590) also known as 'Tabernaemontanus' a German physician, pharmacist and botanist. He developed a passion for herbs and then studied medicine. He was known for his life's work, an illustrated book on medicinal herbs published in 1588. Throughout his life he tried to find a cure for the plague, typhus. The meaning of 'elegans' is elegant.

Vachellia sieberana (Acacia sieberiana var. woodii)

(Paperbark Thorn)

This tree occurs in Northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. It is easily identified by its dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark. The fluffy, scented white pompom blooms are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage. The papery bark is exceptionally attractive and peels off in flattish strips, displaying yellow under bark. The bark is highly flammable and sensitive to fire, so perhaps it’s best not to build a braai under it. Legend has it that one should write one’s wishes on a piece of bark and blow it away. This apparently guarantees that your wishes will be fulfilled. The bark shelters insects which are foraged by insect eating birds. 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. The Buffalo Weavers nest in these trees. Pied and Crested Barbets like to make nesting holes in the bark. The bark is also used to create a grey dye. It will remain evergreen in a moist habitat but in cooler or drier parts it is semi or completely deciduous. The paired, white thorns are joined at the base and grow up to 100 mm in length. The light brown pods have a musty or fruity smell and are 100 to 200 mm long. The pods are browsed by game and the Grey Hornbills crack open the pods to eat the seeds but the leaves contain prussic acid which is dangerous to stock. A wonderful nesting and lookout site for many birds, and is a ‘food basket’ for a variety of birds, beetles, bees and other bugs. It is the larval host of the Black-striped Hairtail, Common Scarlet and the Silver-spotted Grey. It is medicinal as an infusion from the roots is used as an antiseptic and a bark decoction is a painkiller. It is also used to wash children who have a fever, stomach ache, acne, gonorrhoea, colds, tapeworms and diarrhea. The leaves are a vermifuge. The wood is used for general timber although easily damaged by insects. It is fasts growing and would make useful firewood and timber. It is often seasoned under water for 6 months to make it more durable. The gum is clear and of a good quality. Soot is added to the gum to make ink.It has been recorded as growing to about 200 years. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 7 meters from buildings and pools. This is a popular bonsai subject. Branches fall from these trees. All thorn trees drop their thorns so it is not suitable for a lawn. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

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