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Searsia pyroides (Rhus pyroides)

(Fire Thorn)

This is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized, multistemmed tree, frequently with spines. The bark is rough and grey. The leaves are compound, composed of three leaflets (tri-foliate). The leaves are borne on slender stalks, which are furrowed above. The leaflets are oval, narrowing at both ends, sometimes with a short tip. They are smooth or velvety above, the lower surface is usually slightly hairy. The fruits ripen in summer to late autumn and in such quantities that the branches bend with the weight. The fruits are round and small, white and red when ripe. The wood is used to make hoe handles. The branches are used to build kraals. The roots are used in traditional medicine.The fruit is edible, with a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. It is a hardy, frost-resistant plant and is well suited to Highveld gardens. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves.Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Searsia zeheri (Rhus zeheri)

(Blue Currant)

It is a beautiful neat and compact ornamental that grows to 3m high and 3m wide. It is a deciduous tree that has attractive blue-green leathery foliage and occasionally develops into a small tree up to 4m high. It produces yellow flowers in summer and rounded decorative fruits which ripen to russet-red. It should be planted in sun and it is drought resistant, attracts birds. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Senegalia ataxacantha (Acacia ataxacantha)

(Flame Thorn)

A small, deciduous tree which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. In summer it is covered in white, spike flowers which attracts insect eating birds and is often used for nesting sites. It makes a great thorny, security barrier. There are scattered hook thorns . The beautiful red pods give rise to the common name of Flame Thorn. The wood is flexible when split into strips and these are used to weave baskets. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Black-striped Hairtail, the Satyr Emperor and the Club-tailed Emperor.

Spirostachys africana

(Tamboti)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree with a round crown occurs at low altitudes. It grows up to 18 m in height. The tree is commonly known for its toxic milky latex that exudes from all parts of it. Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flower heads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The flowers are visited by bees. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days from October to February. The Knobthorn Moth lays its eggs in the fruit and the larvae cause the fruit to jump once they have hatched. This is why they are called 'jumping beans'.The fruit is eaten by birds, antelope and monkeys. This tree is very attractive in larger gardens, it is fairly drought and frost resistant, but grows very slowly. Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as a painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs. Powdered bark is rubbed all over the body to prevent having a hairy body. Wood smoke is inhaled to drive away evil spirits. Pieces of bark are worn as a protective charm and it is also used as a fish poison. It attracts birds, butterflies and is also ideal for bonsai. Antelope, stock and monkeys eat the fallen leaves while fresh leaves are eaten by Black Rhino and Elephant. Porcupine eat the bark. Although it is medicinal, all parts of this tree can cause nausea and death. The wood is hard and is used for furniture but is lethal if used for fuel. It is more fragrant than sandalwood and can be put into linen cupboards to keep fish-moths away. Even the sawdust smoke is lethal if burnt. I read of children who died after using the branches as skewers to braai their boerewors. The name is derived from the Greek speiros = spiralled or twisted ; stachys= spike as the flowers are in a tight spiral on the spike.

Thunbergia natalensis

(Natal Bluebell)

A deciduous shrub that grows to 1,2m x 90cm. This fast growing shrub prefers a lightly shaded position under trees and forms an attractive and dense shrub. The slightly hairy leaves of the Natal Bluebell shelter attractive tubular blue to blue mauve flowers, each with a white to yellow throat. Brides traditionally take a remedy prepared from this plant to guarantee a happy marriage. The stems of the plant are eaten by the long tailed tree mouse. It prefers moist conditions, so water well in summer or plant alongside a dam or water feature where its roots can reach some of the excess moisture. It attracts butterflies. 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.

Tulbaghia simmleri (Tulbaghia fragrans)

(Fragrant Wild Garlic)

This very pretty, fragrant mauve or white flower is on a 25 cm spike and opens in winter. It is cheerful to have one in your garden during the brown, dry Highveld winter. The leaves are wider than the Tulbaghia violacea and not as pungent. They are also edible and the flowers are successfully used in a vase. It grows best in the semi shade and is used medicinally for fevers, cold, asthma and TB. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him. This particular Tulbaghia is named after Paul Simmler who was a successful Chief Gardener in Geneva.

Vachellia tortilis (Acacia tortilis)

(Umbrella Thorn)

It is a most classically shaped Acacia and is the well known emblem of one of our commercial banks and was the subject of many of Pierneef's paintings. The flat top droops slightly at the edge, producing an umbrella shape. It occurs naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Noah apparently used this wood to make The Arc. It has both hooked and straight thorns.The flowers open in summer and are white pompoms and sometimes so profuse that the tree appears blanketed in snow. Baboon and monkeys enjoy eating the flowers. It makes a striking specimen and is highly sought after for bonsai. It requires full sun and survives drought and frost. It grows well in any soil even in clay soil although it is an indicator in the wild of good soil and grasses for grazing. It stabilizes the soil. The bark is used to make fibre for ceremonial skirts and it is used to make a yellow dye. Elephant are fond of the bark and often tear off strips which result in the death of the tree. In the Kruger National Park sharp rocks are placed around the trees to protect them from the elephants as they don't like walking on sharp rocks. Attracts birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, springbok, bushbuck, impala, duiker and giraffe while the contorted pods are enjoyed by monkeys, baboons and parrots. The gum is edible and is enjoyed by Bushbabies. It is slow growing but the wood is used for fuel. It is planted to stabilize the soil as it has an extensive root system. It is the larval host plant for the Topaz Blue and the Brown Playboy. 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.

Zantedeschia albomaculata

(Arrow-Leaved Arum)

This is a summer rainfall, deciduous species from eastern Southern Africa. It is found in marshy ground on rocky or grassy mountainsides or stream banks. It is a medium/tall plant with striking arrow shaped leaves that often have white spots. The name albomaculata means "spotted with white.” It has white/creamy spathes, with a dark throat. This attracts the pollinators which are either spiders or beetles. Lydenberg in Mpumalange is home to 4 Zantedescia species. The Zulu women use a decoction of the plant to treat women who have frequent miscarriages and give birth to weak babies. The flowers are suitable for the vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zantedeschia pentlandii

(Yellow Arum)

This arum grows in the Mapoch area in Mpumalanga. It is medium height, about 0 .6 m tall and produces cup shaped yellow flowers in November and December. They have a purple throat, like Zantedescia albomaaculata. It is one of the 4 species of Arums that grow in the rocky grasslands around Lydenberg, Mpumalanga. The rocks help to prevent the porcupines from eating the tubers. They are threatened as they have been exploited for the horticultural trade. The flowers are suitable for the vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zantedeschia rehmanni

(Pink Arum)

This small arum only grows to 30 cm in rocky grassland. The leaves are lance shaped and the delicate flowers are white, pale pink, dark pink and purple. They open from September to February. It is one of the 4 species of Arums that grow in the rocky grasslands around Lydenberg, Mpumalanga. The rocks help to prevent the porcupines from eating the tubers. They are threatened as they have been exploited for the horticultural trade. The flowers are suitable for the vase. There is a large pale pink form that looks like a cross between the Z rehmanni and the Z aethiopica which is called Z 'Marshmallow'. It's very pretty and also does well as a cut flower. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zanthoxylum capense

(Small Knobwood)

Occurs in the Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. This small, mutistemmed tree grows to about 5 m in the sun or semi shade in the dry woodlands on rocky slopes. It’ s a protected tree in South Africa with glossy green leaves that have a strong citrus smell when crushed, the thorns are straight and brown and fade to grey on cone shaped protuberance when old. The flowers are white/green and are sweetly scented. They attract insects and insect eating birds. It is both drought and frost hardy. The citrus swallowtail larvae, White-banded Swallowtail, Green-banded Swallowtail and the Emperor Swallowtail feed off the leaves while the fruit is eaten by birds, monkeys and baboons. The leaves are browsed by kudu, klipspringer and grey duiker. The fruit is chewed for stomach aches, colic, flatulence, cramps and pain. Crushed leaves are made into a tea which is drunk for stomach upsets, diarrhoea, cramps and intestinal worms. The crushed leaves of Artemesia afra and the Knobwood were used during the 1918 Flu epidemic and made into a strong tea. It is used for colds, flu, coughs and a gargle.The bark is used for snake bite and gall-sickness in cattle and the twigs are used as toothbrushes. The crushed seeds are used as perfume. Pounded bark is made into a tea and drunk for blood conditions and also applied to skin eruptions, snake bite and toothache. The wood is yellow and is used for implements and walking sticks which are considered to be a protective charm. The leaves can be left in oil in a warm place for 4 days. This is used to massage tired feet. The pungent leaves can be added to pot-pourri or used with Artemesia leaves to make an insect-repellant pot-pourri. Itt is useful for containers as it has non aggressive roots.

Ziziphus mucronata

(Buffalo Thorn)

This medium sized, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is protected in the Free State. It has non aggressive roots, so you can plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. This is a great bird garden tree as it attracts the insect, fruit and nectar eaters as well as being used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Black Pie, Dotted Blue, Hinza Blue and the White Pie butterflies. Useful if used as an informal hedge/screen or as a thorny security barrier. Game farmers need to plant this important fodder tree as it is browsed by giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, wildebeest, nyala, impala, klipspringer, springbok, grysbok, steenbok, dik-dik and warthog while the fruit is eaten by baboons, monkeys and warthog. The fruit is highly nutritious and are also enjoyed by guineafowl, francolins, parrots, louries and coucal. The raw fruit is edible, or it can be cooked into a porridge or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. It is also used to brew beer. Their nutritious leaves are cooked as spinach and the wood is useful for fuel, hammer handles, and spoons. Saplings are made into whips by removing the bark from the sapling.It is an important medicinal tree as the bark infusions are used for a cough,respiratory ailments and to purify the complexion. Root decoctions are used for pain, toothache, infertility, purification and lumbago. Leaves and shoots are used as a gargle for measles and scarlet fever. The flowers are used as a fish poison. It has many magical uses as the trees are said to ward off lightening and those sitting under a tree during a lightening storm will be safe. Branches are placed on the graves of chiefs to protect them. The branches are also used for cattle kraals and in rituals to return the spirit of the dead to their hometown. The wood is used to carve bowls and spoons and the thin branches are used for fencing posts, roof struts, grain mortars and gates. The zig zag shaped young branches epitomize one’s path through life which is both good and bad. The leaves are 3 veined to remind us that our relationships with God, the environment and our fellow man needs to be in balance. The forward pointing thorns remind us to reach for our goals and the re-curved ones remind us to look back and reflect on where we have come from. The name is derived from the Arabic zizouf= the name for the lotus or 'jujube' tree. The tree has dark red edible fruit from which the Victorian sweet, 'jujube' was made. The latin 'mucro' means sharp point and refers to the thorns.

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