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Thunbergia alata

(Black-Eyed Susan)

Cheerful, evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The orange flowers occur all year and they attract birds - insect eaters. It is useful for containers and is ideal for small gardens where is can be grown on a trellis to act as a screen. I’ve used it floating in a globlet as a table arrangement. This is the larval host plant for the Eyed Pansy butterfly. It is popular throughout the world. Named for Carl Pehr Thunberg (1743-1828) a Swedish botanist, physician, Professor of botany and medicine. He visited the Cape to study Dutch and the flora of the Cape (1772-1775) . He collected 3100 specimens in the Cape.and published Flora Capensis. He then went to Japan, Jarva and Sri Lanka for 15 months. He wrote about his travels and Flora Japonica. He presented his herbarium of 23,510 specimens and 25,000 insects to the University. He was made a knight of the Royal Order and received many honours.

Vachellia hebeclada ( Acacia hebeclada )

(Candle Thorn)

This beautiful, deciduous small tree, 5m is very variable. The flowers are scented and are creamy yellow pompoms that open in spring. It is frost hardy and drought resistant. It should be planted in full sun and is an ideal plant for hedging/screening. The roots are aggressive so it should be planted 5m from buildings and pools. They have been measured at 35 meters deep in Botswana. It attracts birds like the shrikes and robins. . The seed pods stand up along a branch, hence the common name. There are pairs of hooked thorns. They are hard, woody and covered in fine hairs.They and the leaves are eaten by stock and game. In the Kalahari it is a host plant to desert truffles. 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. The Motswana call it 'The house of the Lion' as it is favoured by lions as a shade tree. The wood is hard, durable and is used for implements. It is used to treat leprosy and the roots are used for diarrhoea.The roots are also ground, mixed with fat and used as a hair treatment in Namibia. The name is derived from the Greek 'acantha' which means thorns and the Greek 'hebe' which means hairy and 'klados' which is a branch so it refers to a 'hairy branch'.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow pompom flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. This tree has pairs of straight thorns.The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache, dysentery, diarrhoea, loss of blood and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. 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.

Vachellia robusta (Acacia robusta)

(Splendid Acacia)

This is a very upright tree and it has dark green foliage that grows more erect than other Acacia species. The leaflets are also larger. The white, scented ball shaped flowers open in spring and it starts flowering when it is about six years old. The flowers attract insects for the insect eating birds. It has a pair of straight thorns.This is an ideal garden tree and it is fast growing, about 1m per year. The bark is used to make twine and it is eaten by Rhino. The bark is also used for tanning. Baboon and monkeys eat the young shoots and the gum. It can be used for security hedging /screening. It attracts butterflies like the Hutchinson Highflier as it is the larval host. The weavers eat the seeds and the leaves are browsed by kudu. The roots are apparently poisonous but the tree is used medicinally as it is inhaled for chest complaints and applied for skin ailments. It is also used magically to get rid of snakes. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 3 meters to a building or a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. 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.

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. 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.

Vangueria infausta

(Wild Medlar)

Vangueria infausta Wild Medlar SA Tree No. 702 is a deciduous tree, (small) which is frost resistant, drought resistant and is happy in the full sun.The Medlar has a smooth tan-grey trunk that sometimes flakes and large leaves that are densely covered with short soft golden hairs. The cream flowers occur in spring and they attract birds and insects . This tree attracts birds, butterflies and mammals and has non-aggressive roots. The edible rounded fruits contain high levels of vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, and ripen to yellow/ brown. They are used to distill brandy, 'mampoer' and for jam making. They are popular with people, birds, monkeys, tortoises and bushpigs. The seeds can also be roasted and eaten. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, bushbabies, monkeys, baboons, squirrels and bushpigs. It is considered unlucky to cut it down so the wood is not used. Traditional remedies prepared from the roots are used to treat malaria, roundworm, pneumonia and other chest troubles. It apparently cures mumps if a ritual is performed whereby one dances around the tree at first light shouting "Leave me mumps". The pounded leaves are applied to tick bite sores on stock and dogs to speed up healing. A poultice of the leaves is applied to swellings on the legs. The fruit pulp is mixed with water to make an 'apple sauce' which is eaten with meat. The sticks are used for fish traps and are smeared with fat as a protection against lightening.It is considered to be an aphrodisiac and is a protective charm. It is indeed a valuable asset on farms and game farms. The name is derived from the Malagasy name voa vanguer for Vangueria edulis.

Veltheimia bracteata

(Bush Lily)

These beautiful flowers look a bit like an Aloe. They stand about 50cm tall and are a striking pink-red or yellow in colour. They are deciduous during mid-summer. These are shade loving bulbs growing naturally in the coastal forests of the Eastern Cape. They are happy growing in a pot on a patio. Named for August Ferdinand von Veltheim ( 1741-1801] a German mineralogist, with interests in geology, Archaeology and civic matters. He was an inspector of mines and wrote a geology. He developed a beautiful botanical garden at the Castel in Harbke and was a patron of botany. He received an honoral PhD and was appointed a count by the king of Prussia.

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