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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.

Asparagus densiflorus-sprengerii

(Basket Asparagus)

An evergreen groundcover, which is water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in spring and they attract butterflies. The flowers are followed by red berry that attracts fruit eating birds. They are useful for containers and hanging baskets. The bright green, glistening foliage is attractive and is ideal for small gardens and is used in flower arranging. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus virgatus

(Broom Asparagus)

A fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 1m high. It is drought resistant and it an ideal plant for containers. It thrives well in semi-shade and it produces white flowers in spring. It attracts birds and does well under trees. It is traditionally used as a sprinkling protective charm and love charm. Medicinally it is used to treat syphilis and intestinal worms. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

These occur naturally in the Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. An infusion of a few leaves in a cup of boiling water , is left to stand and then strained and drunk for coughs, colds and arthritis. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'. Propagate from seed or division.

Clivia miniata

(Bush Lily)

An evergreen groundcover which is water wise and grows in shade or semi-shade. The orange or yellow flowers occur in spring and are a favourite garden subject. The flowers attract birds and are long lasting in the vase. They do well in containers and are suitable for a shady corner in a townhouse garden. The roots are used medicinally for snake bite, fevers, childbirth, pregnancy and as a charm against evil. It is considered a good indicator of wealth, health and rains if one is growing near the homestead. They are an international collector’s item as they are hybridized to produce variegated leaves and a host of colours. The seed takes almost a year to ripen on the plant. A yellow Clivia seed is yellow when ripe, whereas the orange turn almost red. Clean the fleshy covering from the seed and this is said to strengthen ones fingernails. Rub the seeds with bleach to prevent disease and rot. Place the seed on the surface of a seed tray and cover with leaf litter. Don't over water as they they may rot otherwise they are easy to germinate. It was named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive in 1828. William Burchell first discovered them in the Eastern Cape in 1820. Miniata means the colour of red lead.

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.

Crassula multicava

(Fairy Crassula)

This is an evergreen groundcover which is water wise and will happily grow in sun, shade or semi-shade. The pink flowers open in spring and attract insect eating birds and butterflies. It is lovely mass planted under trees as it doesn’t require much soil or water and won’t compete with the tree’s roots. It is ideal for small gardens, planting in containers or hanging baskets. The flowers are long lasting in the vase. It is also a medicinal plant as it is a strong emetic. This is the larval host plant for the Tailed Black-eye butterfly. Named from the Latin 'crassus'= and 'ula'= diminutive referring to the fleshy succulent leaves.

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.

Dierama pendulum

(Harebell or Angel's Fishing Rod)

This deciduous bulb grows to 1m x 1m in the sun. It is frost resistant. The sprays of pink flowers occur in summer and it is a show stopper when in full bloom. As it occurs in wetlands and along our rivers it is suitable for a bog garden or near a water feature. Burning in winter promotes flowering. The corms are placed in gourds as a charm for a good harvest. They are also crushed and used on bruises. The flowers are are mixed with hot water and the juice of the Sour Fig (Carpobrotus) leaf and applied to bites, stings and rashes. The bulbs are also medicinal as they are used as a purgative or an enema. The name is derived from the Greek 'diorama'=a funnel which refers to the shape of the flower.

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.

Gerbera jamesonii

(Barbeton Daisy)

This is a perennial groundcover with deeply lobed leaves covered with silky hairs. The striking flower is borne on a long stalk and the outermost petals (ray florets) may be cream, red, orange, yellow or pink, while the central flowers (disc florets) are cream. Flowering occurs in spring and autumn. It requires full sun and moderate watering. It is an ideal plant for containers. It attract birds and is much loved throughout the world. It is long lasting in a vase. Named for Traugott Gerber ( 1710-1743)

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