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Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

Grewia flavescens

(Sandpaper Raisin)

It is a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall. Its bark is dark grey-brown. The main stem is 4-angled and deeply grooved. The flowers have a central mass of yellow stamens. The fruits are single and shiny with rough white hairs. They are enjoyed by birds and are used to make beer. The leaves feel like sandpaper. The flowering time is in summer. They do not require much water and are frost-hardy. Birds and mammals enjoys the fruits and the leaves are browsed by game. The wood is strong and is used to make walking sticks. It is the larval host plant to the Buff-tipped Skipper butterfly. It is used to treat nose-bleeds, inflamation of the naval cord and syphilis. Named after Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) a British physian, physiologist and botanist known as 'the father of plant physiology'. He graduated from Cambridge university in 1661 and then studied medicine at Leyden University in 1671. He published many works including The anatomy of Plants in 1682 and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Halleria lucida

(Tree Fuchsia)

This small, evergreen tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant, fast growing in sun or semi-shade. The word lucida means bright and it refers to the shiny, bright leaves. In summer the orange flowers attract bees and birds - insect, fruit and nectar eaters and it is used for nesting sites so it’s a great choice for a bird garden. The berries attract pigeons, louries, parrots, thrush, bulbuls, robins and white-eyes. The flowers are full of nectar and this gives rise to the Xhosa name that means 'free food'. or 'birds beer'. This attracts sunbirds, white eyes and even weavers. It also attracts butterflies. It is useful for formal pruned hedging or informal hedging/screening. It has a lovely drooping habit. It is medicinal as the leaves are soaked in water which is then dripped into the ears for earache. It is also magical and is used as a charm against evil, lightening and bad weather. This is done by burning the trees and using the ash mixed with fat to rub onto sticks cut from Rhamnus prinoides. These are driven into the soil. Twigs are burnt when offering sacrifices to the ancestors. On a river walk in the Cape I struggled to identify the Halleria and it was only when I saw the black fruit did I realize what it was. I have never seen them that tall in Gauteng. It is useful on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by eland, kudu, nyala, bushbuck and grey duiker. The wood is hard and is used for spear shafts and to start a fire.The roots are non aggressive so you can plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool.

Hesperantha coccinea (was Schizostylis coccinea)

(Scarlet River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover of 50cm x 20cm loves moist conditions and it looks stunning next to a water features or pond.The beautiful, attractive star shaped scarlet flowers of bright red, pink or white open in summer and attract buterflies. It is frost hardy and it also require lots of water as it likes to be in a wetland area. It is also good for containers. I once saw these in full flower in the marshy area on the bank of a river in Wakkerstroom, which proves how frost hardy they are.

Heteropyxis natalensis

(Lavender Tree)

This small, evergreen tree is water wise and is happy in the sun or semi shade. In summer the white/creamy flowers attract bees, wasps, butterflies and insects which attract the insect eating birds. It is also a useful tree for nesting. This tree is suitable for containers and bonsai as it has non aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. It is used medicinally as an antibacterial and the bark is considered to be an aphrodisiac.The leaves and roots of this plant are used medicinally to treat worms in stock and tick infestions, for toothache, mouth and gum infections. African healers prescribe inhaling the steam from a decoction of the roots to heal a bleeding nose and clear a blocked nose. The roots are also used in the treatment of mental disorders and fresh leaves are used during weaning, to make a herbal tea and for potpourri . A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat heartburn, colic, colds and flatulence. This tea is said to be strengthening and is given to the elderly, travellers and new mothers. The leaves are also used to scent tobacco as they smell like lavender as well as being browsed by antelope. Leaves and twigs are boiled in water to make a fragrant wash. Crushed leaves are added to mutton fat which then treats cracked heels and tired feet. The leaves are put into the bath for a fragrant and invigorating bath and are used in Potpourri. The bark and the leaves are eaten by black rhino. It is a very decorative tree for small gardens. With its glossy green leaves and a whitish stem, it makes a very good focal point. Plant this tree in a prominent spot where you can enjoy its lovely autumn foliage. The small fruit ripens in autumn and winter. The name is derived from the Greek heteros = different : pyxis = a jar with a lid , referring to the fruit capsule which looks like it has a lid on it.

Hibiscus calyphyllus

(Sun Hibiscus)

This perennial shrub grows up to 1,5m and is evergreen, frost hardy and fast growing. It produces attractive, bright, sunny, yellow flowers with deep-red to blackish centres. This decorative, nicely rounded, soft, bushy shrub has large velvet or hairy leaves. The flowers close early in the afternoon and do not re-open. The flowering time is in summer and its flowers for a reasonable length of time. They lure insect pollinators which in turn attract birds. During a famine the flowers are cooked as a pot verb. The root is used to treat small children who have a bloated stomach. Hawk moths, Snow white moth, Spiny bollworm moth and the Orange cotton moth all lay their eggs on this plant. The mystical idea is that it's a love potion so dried petals are put into love incense and it is used in wedding ceremonies. The name is derived from the Greek hibiskos the name for a 'marsh-mallow' and ibis= a stork that fed on some mallow species.

Hibiscus penduncularis

(Pink Hibiscus)

Evergreen, water wise shrub that grows about 1m x 1m. It thrives in semi-shade and produces lovely pink, bell shaped flowers in Summer. It is an ideal plant for a container on a shady patio. It will grow in the sun but will then require more water. It also attracts birds and the Foxy Charaxes, Foxt Emperor and Star Sandman butterflies. Leaf and stalk infusions are used for urinary complaints. The mystical idea is that it's a love potion so dried petals are put into love incense and it is used in wedding ceremonies.The name is derived from the Greek hibiskos the name for a 'marsh-mallow' and ibis= a stork that fed on some mallow species.

Hypericum revolutum

(Curry Bush)

This multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is fast-growing, evergreen and grows to 3 m high and spreads about the same width. The stems have reddish brown, scaly bark and drooping branches. The evergreen plant's leaves release a curry-like smell when crushed and after rain. The fresh, green foliage and bright yellow flowers are reasons to have this delightful plant in your garden. Flowers are single and bright yellow, up to 50 mm in diameter. Flowering time is in summer and autumn. The fruit are reddish brown capsules enclosing the seeds. The wood of this plant is used as timber and for building material in some African countries. Medicinally, it is used to treat stomach ache and the leaves are cooked and strained to heal sores and VD, backache from kidney infections. It is said to be ‘nature's firebreak’, as it does not burn well and therefore protects forests. It can be planted in the full sun to semi shade, in well-drained soil and needs to be watered regularly. It would do well along a stream or near a water feature. A regular light pruning will to keep it neat. It can be used in containers, for mass planting as an informal hedge and as a pioneer plant. It deserves a place in any fragrant garden and it attract birds and bees. The name is derived from the Greek hyper=above, eikon= a figure, icon, image. From the ancient practice of placing flowers above an image to ward off evil spirits.

Impatiens hochstetteri

(Mauve Impatiens)

A fast growing water loving groundcover. It grows about 30 cm tall and 40 cm wide. It has soft oval rounded petals. The flowers open in summer. Plant this lovely groundcover in dappled shade, particularly near a pond or stream as it loves moist conditions. It requires a protected position in frosty gardens. A leaf and stem infusion is also used as a tradition medicine for dealing with eczema. The name is derived from the Latin impatiens = referring to the bursting of the seed pod and forceful scattering of the seeds.

Impatiens sylvicola

(Salmon Impatiens)

A low scrambling annual or short-lived perennial which roots at the lower nodes. The leaves are spirally arranged, more or less broadly ovate-lanceolate, 2-10 cm long, and the margin is scalloped or toothed. Flowers are solitary or in few-flowered clusters, pink or mauve with a deep mauve to red spot near the base of the upper lateral petals. The flowers open in summer. It is a lovely groundcover for a wet land areas in the garden or plant it near pond in dappled shade. Frost tender. The name is derived from the Latin impatiens = referring to the bursting of the seed pod and forceful scattering of the seeds.

Imperata cylindrica

(Cottonwool Grass)

A water loving creeping grass that spreads with long rhizomes and can form dense stands. Cottonwool grass grows in a poorly drained damp soil such as vleis and riverbanks. White flowers open from August to June. It is hardy to frost, fast growing and should be planted in the sun or semi-shade. This is an ideal grass for wetlands. It also protects the soil from soil erosion. It is also a useful grass as it is used for thatching, making paper and fuel. The seed also attracts birds. Named after Ferrante Imperato ( 1550-1625) an Italian scholar of many subjects. He also formed a museum and studies how fossils were formed.

Indigofera jucunda ( frutescens and cylindrica)

(River Indigo)

This tree was originally called Indigofera frutescens. It is a small evergreen tree which is frost resistant and will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The delicate pink flowers open in summer which makes a stunning sight. Eve Palmer describes them as "pretty things all lightness and grace". They are pollinated by bees. It is useful for containers and is a popular garden tree. It can be cut back to make a multi stemmed shrub or left as a single stemmed tree. It produces strong wood and is used magically as the roots are used as a love charm. They are also used medicinally as a worm remedy. It is the larval host to the Common Blue, Lucerne Blue, Grass Jewel Blue, Grizzled Blue. Karkloof Blue, Restless Blue,Clover Blue Striped Policeman and the African Clouded Yellow butterflies. The leaves are used to make dye. This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Katin indicus, Greek indikos referrijng to India. The Latin ferax = bearing. Indigo is blue dye.

Isolepsis cernua

(Fiber optic grass)

This little sedge gets it's name from the fact that the tiny white flowers look like little fiber optic lamps. It grows to about 30 cm wide an will thrive in either the sun or the shade but it must be kept moist. it can even be planted in water. It is perfect for a water feature where it will be splashed or even in a pond. The 'moplike' tufts are upright when the plant is young and they become longer with age. They can be given a 'haircut' if necessary. The name is derived from the Greek isos - equal; lepsis = scale; referring to the glumes of the flower.

Jasminum angulare

(Wild Jasmine)

A slow growing, evergreen scrambling shrub or vine that grows to 7m high. It produces masses of white, scented, star-shaped flowers in summer and it attracts a variety of birds. Plant in full sun to light shade and water regularly. It is a bit tender and does best in frost-free gardens but can handle a few degrees below freezing without damage. Useful as a climber or espalier and the flowers are used in arrangements. The fresh leaves poison sheep and cattle. It is a larval host to the Cambridge Blue butterfly and 6 species of moths. Mystically the dried flowers are used in love sachets, to attract wealth and encourage prophetic dreams. Fresh flowers are smelled to induce sleep. The name is derived from the Persian yasmin = a fragrant shrub.

Juncus effusus

(Common Rush)

Juncus effusus is a clump forming wetland plant that is a striking vertical addition to any garden or container planting. It grows to 70cm high and 30cm wide. Upright, fanning, deep green, rounded stems make a great accent in container or water gardens. It can be planted at the edge of that is about 20 cm deep. Inconspicuous golden flowers appear on top of the stems in summer. It provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife and it is also used to make traditional sitting mats. It thrives when planted in sun and is an ideal plant for a wet land garden or around a water feature. They attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

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