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Gardenia thunbergia

(Starry Gardenia)

This is an evergreen small tree, 2 to 5 m in height. It is slow-growing and does best in sun or semi-shade, in a slightly acid, light, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter added and regular deep watering. Mulch thickly and regularly. Although it is moderately drought tolerant, drought stress can cause buds to fall before opening. It is half hardy and should tolerate a winter minimum of -1°C although young plants will require protection from frost. It looks good as a specimen plant on a lawn, as part of an informal hedge or shrubbery, or planted beNamed for Carl side a pond or a stream. It also makes a good pot plant in a large container as its pale grey bark and angular shape make it an interesting form plant, while the flowers perfume the air. The flowers are heavily scented at night and attract moths. It is also suitable for bonsai. We have used it as an alternative indigenous Christmas tree. The roots are used to treat skin diseases and fevers. Root bark infusions are used as an emetic against biliousness. The fruit are relished by elephants, buffalo and antelope. It also attracts birds and butterflies. It is slow growing and therefore the wood is hard. 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.

Portulacaria afra

(Elephant's Foot, Spekboom)

Nature's wonder plant that purifies the air. A friend of mine has one growing in a pot in every room in her home. The porkbush is an attractive, evergreen succulent shrub or small tree that can reach 2 - 5 m in height, although usually around 1.5 - 2 m in a garden situation. It is protected. It has small round succulent leaves and red stems. Small star-shaped light pink to deep red flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring although flowering in cultivation is often erratic. They are a rich source of nectar for many insects, which in-turn attracts insectivorous birds and is used as nesting sites. Bees use the nectar to make honey. It also attracts butterflies. The fruit are like inflated paper lanterns and are mauve or rose coloured. They thrive in warm situations on rocky slopes, in bushveld and dry river valleys. This bushy tree makes a lovely screen or hedge. The leaves of the porkbush can be eaten and have a sour or tart flavour. It is heavily browsed by game and domestic stock and highly favoured by tortoises. The porkbush is useful for preventing soil erosion. Traditional uses also include the increasing of breast milk for lactating mothers. The leaves are used to quench thirst, and sucking a leaf is used to treat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke. There are many medicinal uses as crushed leaves can be rubbed on blisters and corns on the feet to provide relief. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for a sore throat and mouth infections while the astringent juice is used for soothing skin conditions such as pimples, rashes and insect stings. The juice is also used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for sunburn. The leaves are excellent fodder for most domestic animals and game such as grey duiker, klipspringer, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu and elephant. A sprig is placed on top of Tomato Bredie as it is cooking and this imparts an elusive and tangy taste.

Rhamnus prinoides

(Dogwood)

Grows in most parts of the country to 4-6meters. It makes a rounded, evergreen screen which is attractive with its glossy green leaves which are browsed by game. The leaves are used in beer and wine making. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish, blooming between November and January, in small clusters. They are loved by the bees, the Forest-king butterfly and other insects which attract the insect eating birds. The fruits are about the size of a pea (about 5 mm in diameter), roundish and clearly divided into three compartments. They appear between December and June. They are fleshy and green, turning red and then purple as they ripen. The fruit is loved by many bird species like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins, so it's a great addition to a bird garden. The wood is white to yellow, often streaked with brown, pink, red or green and is hard and heavy. It is too small to be generally useful, although walkingsticks may be made of it. It is tough and frost resistant and grows well in moist soils. It is evergreen and is good for small gardens and hedges, especially in cold areas. It is widely used as a protective charm to ward off lightning and evil influences from homes and crops and to bring luck in hunting. It is also used medicinally to cleanse the blood, to treat pneumonia, rheumatism, sprains, skin complaints, respiratory infections, stomach ache, and as a gargle. It has non aggressive roots and will grow well in containers. Plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Celtic ram, and later the Greek rhamnos= tuft of branches.

Searsia crenata (Rhus crenata)

(Dune Crow-Berry)

This evergreen shrub or small tree can reach a height of 3–5 m. It is spineless and grows well on sandy dune soils and is therefore useful for coastal gardens. It can be pruned to make an effective and attractive hedge or screen, an ideal windbreak and can be successfully used as a bonsai. The flowers are insignificant, white to almost cream and appear in small clusters at the tip of branches during autumn. The fruits are small round red-brown to pale black berries and are popular with birds. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves.

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.

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.

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