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Aloe castanea

(Cat’s Tail Aloe, Katstertaalwyn)

The common name refers to the shape of the flowers and the Botanical name refers to Chestnut coloured nectar. It grows happily on the Witwatersrand and occurs naturally in Mpumalanga. It grows to about 2-4 meters and the orange flowers are produced in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Artemesia afra

(Wildeals or Wormwood)

This is an evergreen shrub that grows to 1m high to 1m wide. It is named after the Greek Goddess of hunting, Artemis. A tough and easy-to-grow species which adds texture and colour with its finely divided, silver-grey, aromatic foliage. White flowers occur in spring. The growth habit can be somewhat untidy, but it responds well to pruning. The lower branches become woody with age and the plant may need to be replaced after 3 to 4 years. It is frost and drought hardy and requires full sun. A must for the herb garden and useful in shrub borders. It is medicinal as the roots are used to treat colds, pneumonia and intestinal worms.An infusion of 5 grams of leaves are steeped in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and this is used for various respiratory ailments, gastro intestinal complaints, gout, measles, malaria, constipation, blood purifiers, acne, boils,bites and stings, diabetes, croup, whooping cough, loss of appetite, earache and toothache.Childbirth pain and menstrual cramps are treated by steaming the genitals. A bath lotion can be made to treat haemorrhoids, fever and measles. Take 40 grams of fresh leaves and bring to the boil in 2 litres of water. Leave to steep and cool. Strain and bottle ready to put into the bath. Wildeals Brandy was a popular standby to treat many ailments. As it is narcotic and analgesic, the leaves are packed into sore teeth or blocked nose and even into the ear to treat ear ache. A decoction is held in the mouth to treat gum infections. It is made by taking a bottle of brandy and adding 1 cup of Artemesia leaves, 1/4 cup Thyme, 1/2 cup mint, 1 cup of sugar, piece of ginger and 1/4 cup of Rosemary. This must steep for a month. The dose is 1 Tablespoon in water. One can also use this plant to make a moth repellent or an insecticide spray. The leaves are burnt on a braai to keep the mosquitoes away and it gives a pleasant aroma while improving the flavour of the meat. If planted on the border of the bed, it will keep dogs out of the garden. It is also useful if used as a companion plant in a veggie garden and it repels pests like worms and insects like flies and mosquitoes. Magically used increase psychic powers, counteracts poisoning and protects against bewitchment. It also aids soil health and is used in pot pourris and flower arrangements. Plant one in your garden as it is the larval host plant of the larvae of the Painted Lady butterfly.

Coleonema album

(White Confetti Bush)

The name is derived from the Greek 'koleus' = a sheath and 'nema'= thread referring to the filaments of the stamens.This decorative, evergreen shrub with dainty, sweetly scented, white flowers in spring make this buchu an ideal garden plant and suitable for floral arrangements. It grows to 1m high and 0.75m wide. This species requires full sun and soil that is acid, well drained and composted. Add a layer of mulch to keep the soil and roots cool in summer, retain moisture and reduce weeds. They require good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer. Do not allow plants to dry out. It is an ideal container plant for a sunny position on a patio and can also be hedged. It attracts birds. The aromatic leaves contain essential oils and are used by fishermen to remove the fishy smell from their hands. They can also be used as an insect repellent by rubbing the leaves onto the skin or boiled in water and spayed on plants or even clothes. For an invigorating bath, add leaves to the bathwater. It is used medicinally for colds, abdominal pains and flu. The leaves can be chewed for a sore throat and a tea can be made by steeping some leaves in a cup of boiling water. The leaves are used to make cosmetics, deodorant and perfume. A wealth of uses just from the leaves.

Coleonema pulchellum

(Dark Pink Confetti Bush)

The name is derived from the Greek 'koleus' = a sheath and 'nema'= thread referring to the filaments of the stamens.This is an evergreen, upright, reasonably dense shrub which grows to 1,5m high and 1,5m wide which produces pink flowers in winter and spring. The foliage is fine with needle-shaped leaves which have an aromatic fragrance when crushed. Fishermen use this plant to get rid of the fishy smell on their hands as well a their nets. Make a 'tea' out of the leaves and then put into a bath and it will make your skin tingle and leave you refreshed. They are also insect repellent and if the 'tea' is rubbed into ones skin it will repel mosquitoes. Campers also rub the leaves on their pillows and bedding.They fit in well with members of the Protea family and other fynbos. If you have sufficient space, plant in groups of 3 or 5.The confetti bush will get woody after a few years and should then be replaced. Do not allow young plants to dry out but once established they will survive periods of drought. They respond to good watering in winter and moderate watering in summer. It looks amazing when is used as a hedge or for screening .It is suitable for coastal gardens. They are also used medicinally as a tea is made from the leaves, and Artemesia afra can also be added to cure coughs and cold. It is said to help a sore throat if the leaves are chewed. The fragrant leaves are also added to Pot Pourri.

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.

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.

Helichrysum petiolare balls

(Imphepho)

A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage smells of curry and consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. The grey leaves contrast beautifully in a garden as most other foliage is green. It also looks pretty planted next to Aristida junciformis grass. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flower heads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer. It is magical as the leaves and stems are burnt as incense to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is inhaled to induce a trance. Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems, a protective cleanser and treat high blood pressure. A tea is made from the leaves to treat stress,heart problems, high blood pressure, a sedative and anxiety. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever and used to fumigate sick rooms. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding and campers still do the same today. It should be planted in full sun in a well drained soil. It should always be cut back because it grows very quickly. It an ideal plant for containers and has been used extensively abroad for decades. The dried flower are also exported. It attracts butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek (h)elios=sun : chryos =gold referring to the bright yellow flowers.

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.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. 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. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

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