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Vachellia xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)

(Fever Tree)

This large sized deciduous tree is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade .It also grows well in a swampy, low lying areas and clay soils. It was originally thought that the tree caused malaria, hence it's common name. It was the swampy conditions that caused the malaria. The fragrant yellow flowers open in Spring and smell like vanilla which attracts insects and insectivorous birds. There is also a white flowering form. First hand experience shows that it has an aggressive roots system, although some books claim that they are non aggressive. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pool. The beautiful yellow bark makes it distinctive and highly sought after, but be aware that they are frost tender when young. It is a useful tree as it has medicinal bark, edible gum and the timber is used for boxwood, furniture and carving as it is hard and heavy. Elephants eat the young branches and giraffe, monkeys and baboon eat the leaves, flowers and the pods. Weavers like to build their nests in these trees, probably because the thorns help to protect them. The bark is used as a good luck charm and it is used medicinally, mixed with dried roots to treat malaria and to treat fevers and eye complaints and the bark is rolled into small balls and chewed for a cough and sore throat. Branches are used to protect fields from hippo. This is a popular bonsai subject. Unfortunately this fungal disease is rather common on Fever Trees. The fungus has been identified as a rust, similar to Uromyces. The suggestion is to totally spray the trunks with triazole type fungicides. (Defender or Bumper 30 ml per 100 L water) Probably the most popular treatment is a total drench with Trichotec --- Trichoderma spp. A living fungi that is antagonistic to many other pathogenic fungi. After the drench it is essential to cover as much of the treated trunk with newspaper to shield the Trichoderma from ultra violet light for a few weeks. Preventatively - be careful as weed-eater damage can initiate an infection. If this is not successful, call an arborist for their opinion and treatment. 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. Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Elephant's child' immortalised the specie with 'The banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with Fever Trees'.

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.

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.

Afrocanthium gilfillanii (was Canthium mundianum)

(Rock Alder)

An evergreen, small, sparsely branched tree with berries which attract birds, especially Loeries. The leaves are dark green and slightly hairy. Fragrant greenish flowers open in spring. It is excellent for small gardens especially where filtered light is desired. Prune out lower branches to form a tree. It is very adaptable and drought resistant, however it thrives if fed and watered regularly. The wood is used for fencing posts and tools. From the Malabar name canti for a specie of this genus 'Turkey- Berry" trees.

Aloe castanea

(Cat’s Tail Aloe)

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.

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.

Aloe variegata

(Kanniedood)

This groundcover aloe grows to 25cm and is frost resistant and water wise as it occurs in the cold parts of the Karoo. It grows in the full sun and produces light to dark coral pink flowers in spring which attract birds. If planted in a pot, be sure not to over water it. It is used medicinally for curing sores on fingers. Porcupines dig them out of the ground in great numbers. According to old superstitions, if someone transplants one of these aloes and it dies, that person too will die. Mine died in the garden so I guess my days are numbered! The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Anisodontea classic cerise

(Pink Mallow)

This shrub flowered splendidly during one of our black frosts. It did not flinch, so I consider it top of my list of hardy plants. It is evergreen, very fast growing and fills a big space of at least 1m x 1m x 1m. Such an economical plant! It flowers all year and copes well in a drought. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and watch as it attracts butterflies and birds. The name originates from the Latin 'aniso'=unequal and 'odontos'=toothed which refers to the irregularly toothed leaves.

Aptenia cordifolia

(Brakvygie)

This is an evergreen, fast growing succulent, which grows to 250 mm tall. The roots are fleshy and thick and the green leaves are also fleshy, flat and heart- to oval-shaped. Flowers are purple to red, shiny and small. The flowers are self-fertilized and open from spring to autumn. They open during the bright hours of the day (midday to early afternoon). It is an ideal plant for coastal gardens as it tolerates sea spray and grows in sandy soil. It can be used in rockeries, terraced slopes and along roadside or embankments to prevent soil erosion. It requires full sun or semi-shade so it can be planted under trees. It is a medicinal plant as the leaves and stems are burnt and applied as a poultice to painful joints and used as an anti-inflammatory. It is also used magically as a love charm and a charm against sorcery. It is given to babies as a mild enema and the leaves are used as a deodorant against perspiration. The name comes from the Greek 'apten' meaning wingless which refers to the wingless seed.

Arctotheca calendula

(Cape Dandylion)

A sprawling perennial which grows to 25cm tall. The daisy-type flowers are about 6cm across and are a striking yellow. They are mostly pollinated by butterflies. It flowers all year long and is one of the hardy groundcovers that can be used as a substitute for lawn and it also prevents soil erosion. It is able to grow in any garden soil, although it is advisable to add plenty of compost. The Cape Dandelion grows best in full sun and requires a moderate amount of water. It is hardy to moderate frost. The name comes from the Latin kalendae=calendar and ula = little referring to the fact that it flowers all year.

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, diabetes, croup, whooping cough, loss of appetite, boils, earache and toothache.Childbirth pain and menstrual cramps are treated by steaming the genitals. 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. 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.

Becium obovatum now Ocimum obovatum

(Cats Whiskers)

This evergreen ground cover with a fast growth rate grows to about 30cm. It is drought resistant, can take sun and semi-shade.It produces lovely white flowers in Spring and also attracts butterflies. It’s natural habitat is in grasslands.It is Ideal for small gardens or containers.

Berchemia zeheri

(Red Ivory)

This evergreen to semi-deciduous tree is drought resistant but not frost resistant. Flowers are yellowish or greenish white, star-like in clusters on stalks 10 mm long. The flowers appear between September and December and are followed by sweet, yellow to brownish red fruit from January to April. The flowers are sweetly scented and attract various insects and bees. These attract the insect eating birds.The fruits are edible and are enjoyed by people, birds and animals. Plant it in the sun.The beautiful red wood is utilized. It is a medicinal plant and is is used as strong muthi against evil spirits. The leaves are browsed by game. The beautiful wood is used for ornaments, furniture and fence posts. Named for Jacob Peter Berthout van Berchem ( 1763-1832)

Boophane disticha

(Tumbleweed)

The Afrikaans common name is Seeroogblom as the pollen can cause red eyes or a headache. This bulb is deciduous in winter and grows to 1m x 1m so it is frost resistant. It is also water wise as it is drought resistant, so don't over water as they will rot. They grow in our grasslands in the full sun and produce stunning red flowers in Spring. It can be used for containers where the moles won’t get at them. When not in flower the twisted, fan shaped leaves are distinctive. Disticha refers to this leaf arrangement. After flowering the seed stalk dries and breaks away and the seeds are distributed as it tumbles along. hence the common name. It is poisonous and is used as an arrow poison but it is also used medicinally. The bulb is used for headaches, sharp chest pains and bladder pains. The bulb scales are used to fill the holes after ear piercing, dressing wounds, for boils and abscesses. They are also stuffed into mattresses to cure hysteria and sleeplessness. The leaves are used to check bleeding and skin diseases like rashes, wounds, swelling. It causes hallucinations when taken to arouse the spirits. This is a protected plant in South Africa. It is planted as a protective charm as it is believed to have magical powers to ward off evil, poisoning the enemy, to keep the family free of evil, bring on rain and protect the homestead. The word Boophane means 'ox-slaughter' referring to the poisonous bulb. Inhaling the pollen or even the scent of the flower can result in a headache. Many deaths have been recorded in Southern Africa.

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