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Acokanthera oppositifolia

(Bushmans Poison)

This small sized evergreen tree it is hardy, drought and frost resistant with non-aggressive roots. It tolerates full sun or shade and also does well as a container plant. The clusters of pink - white, sweetly scented flowers open in spring, followed by large plum coloured fruit like berries. The stems contain poisonous milky latex which was used as an arrow poison by the Bushmen. Although it is poisonous it is used medicinally to treat snake and spider bites and also for aches, toothache and colds. The leaves are used as a snuff for headaches, convulsions, stomach pain and septicaemia. Root decoctions are used toi treat anthrax and tapeworm. Its ideal for a small garden. This plant is toxic and must be approached with caution. Accidental deaths have occurred when children have eaten the flowers or the fruit. One of our Zulu staff said that they eat the fruit. Some have died when they used the branches as sosati sticks to cook their boerewors. It has also been used for murder whereby thorns are soaked in the sap and then left in the path of a barefoot victim. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is used medicinally as an infusion of root bark is used to treat excessive or irregular menstruation.The name is derived from the Greek ,'akris' which means sharp point and 'anthera' which means anthers referring to the sharp anthers within the flowers.

Burchellia bubalina

(Wild Pomegranate)

This small sized, evergreen tree grows to 2,5m x 1,5m. It is a slow growing, attractive, ornamental shrub that tolerates partial shade but it needs protection from the very cold winter winds and extreme frost. The tubular orange flowers occur in Spring-Summer and they attract birds like the bulbuls, starlings, barbets and mousebirds as well as butterflies as they produce copious nectar and are edible. It is suitable for containers as it has non-aggressive roots. Traditionally the roots are added to body washes and used to prepare a love charm. Named for William John Burchell 1782-1863 an English explorer, naturalist, traveler, artist and author. He worked at Kew Gardens. In 1810 he traveled to Cape Town and collected 50 000 specimens which he took back to the UK. His name is also used in Burchell's zebra and Burchell's coucal.

Dracaena aletriformis

(Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, Grootblaardrakeboom)

This small evergreen tree will thrive in shade. It produces masses of orangy/yellow/white flowers in spring which are sweetly scented at night and attract nocturnal insects like the Hawk Moth which is the pollinator. They are followed by orange fruit which attract birds - insect eaters and fruit eaters like pigeons, louries and black-eyed bulbuls. It also attracts butterflies which feed on the leaves The Bush Nightfighter butterfly larvae wraps a part of the leaf over itself and comes out at night to feed on the leaves. Field mice and birds, like the Natal Robin nest in the leaves. It is a stunning, dramatic foliage plant which can be grown indoors if there is enough air flow or in a pot on a shady patio as it has non aggressive roots. It is frost tender so choose a protected spot close to the house where the building will provide protection. The name is derived from the Greek drakaina=a female dragon.

Milletia grandis

(Umzimbeet)

It occurs in Natal and the Transkei. A deciduous medium sized tree. It is a spreading tree with a good canopy. The leaves show seasonal colour changes as the new leaves are glossy yellow the colour being almost masked by the purple-brown veins and mature leaves are conventional green. The flowers are pea-shaped, deep bright lilac or purple and cover the tree in spring. The fruits are hard, velvety, brown-coloured pods, with green and gold wefts that glint in bright sunshine. It requires full sun to semi-shade and it can survive moderate drought and frost. Baboons strip and eat the bark. The hard wood is used to make furniture, walking sticks and was used for ox wagon parts. The root is used medicinally to induce sleep and dispel worries. This is the recipe: roots are ground with Croton root, add 1 part lion fat, ground lion bone and 1 part python fat and this is burnt . The seeds and roots are used for arrow and fish poison. It is also the larval host plant for the Pondo Emperor and the Orange-barred Playboy butterflies. This is my favourite tree as the new leaves are attractive, the tree is a show stopper when in flower, the velvet seed pods are lovely as are the seeds. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Charles Millet (1792-1873) was a plant collector who worked for the Dutch East India Company in China. He collected botanical samples from China, Ceylon and Java which he sent to Kew Gardens and Cambridge University.

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.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . Powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to heal bleeding gums. The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

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