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Centella asiatica

(Pennywort||Waterhearts)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 15cm high and spreads. It produces cream flowers in summer and should be planted in sun, shade or semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for wetlands as it thrives in moist soil and will be suitable for containers where it will scamper over the edge. It is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, skin ailments like oily skin, blemishes, coarse open pores, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins and thread veins, fever, diuretic, purgative, TB, leprosy, syphilis and to aid the memory. It is excellent for treating sunburn and gives aging skin back its elasticity. In Australia one or two leaves is chopped into a salad and eaten daily. This is said to be the right dose to aid the memory as large amounts eaten at a sitting are said to have a narcotic effect however in South Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach. It is the larval host for the Uranus Opal butterfly and one moth specie. A face cream can be made by simmering half a cup of aqueous cream with half a cup of finely chopped leaves in a double boiler for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil. Fill a container and enjoy the benefits. It can also be made into a lotion by boiling 3 liters of water with 3 cups of leaves for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. This can be used for aching legs, varicose veins, swellings, infections and rashes. Cheap as chips and worth a try. It was recorded in the French pharmacopoeia in 1884 and is used in Hindu medicine, Ayurvedic medicine in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is reported to be antibacterial, antifungal, anti-allergic and hypotensive. Laboratory studies have found it to be mildly tranquillising, anti-stress and anti-anxiety.The name comes from the Greek kentron=a spur or sharp point and ella=diminutive referring to the small pointed styles.

Elegia tectorum (Chondropetalum tectorum)

(Cape Thatching Reed)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It gets a bit “leggie” if there is not enough sun. The dark brown flowers occur in summer. It is useful for wetlands and attractive if planted in a container. It is used for making brooms and for thatching roofs. It is ideal for small gardens but do make sure that you plant it with as little root disturbance as possible. I’ve seen it planted in front of a garden wall and the shadows it casts are quite enchanting.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Cyperus alternifolius

(Sedge)

An evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 1m. The bracts are symmetrically arranged in an umbrella formation and held atop elegant stems that sway with the breeze, giving a tropical feel to the garden. It is a versatile plant ,easily grown and makes an excellent ornamental waterside or marginal plant for water gardens. As an indoor pot plant they are useful for a conservatory, or as interior plant for commercial offices, hotels and malls. Ideally in containers should be stood in water. Its fascinating shape makes it a great plant for landscaping, and as an accent plant or an informal screen. As a background plant, it combines well with other foliage plants or flowering plants in garden beds or borders. It is impossible to over water the ‘Umbrella Plant’ as it enjoys damp and boggy conditions. It can be grown in shallow water of small fish ponds as a water filtration marginal plant. It is excellent for a tropical water garden, a bog garden or wetland. The tall bracts are also excellent when used in fresh or dried floral arrangements. It is similar to Cyprus textiles and it is used to make baskets, twine and mats. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. It is put into boats to protect them from crocodiles. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus prolifer

(Dwarf Papyrus)

This is an evergreen water-loving, attractive, medium-sized groundcover that grows to 30cm high and 15cm wide. It has very inconspicuous leaves, represented by red-brown sheaths at the base. It should be planted in full sun. It is an excellent plant for the containers and is ideal for small wetland gardens. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Falckia repens

(White Carpet)

Very fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 5cm high. It can grow in sun or shade and looks great when squeasing in between rocks or when cascading down over a container. It also is useful between pavers, provided that it gets enough water. The flowers are white or pink and flowering time is from late September to December. An ideal groundcover for wetland gardens. Flat growing, attractive, indigenous alternative to "Daisy Lawn". The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

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.

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.

Kniphofia pauciflora

(Dainty Poker)

Plants of this species are relatively small, growing to about half a metre. It has tufts of green strap-shaped leaves. It is an evergreen groundcover that can be planted in a wetland area, in full sun. Unusual small lovely flowers open in summer. It is an ideal plant for a bird garden. It is deserving of the name Dainty Poker. The flowers are useful for the vase and it’s suitable for containers and a townhouse garden. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

Kniphofia uvaria

(Marsh Poker)

An evergreen groundcover that grows about 1.5m x 1.5m. It is a very fast growing plant when planted in full sun and in a wetland area. The lovely orange/yellow flowers open in Summer. It is similar to Kniphofia linearifolia with a roundish inflorescence. The word uvaria means 'with rounded parts like a bunch of grapes'.The flowers last well in a vase and it is hppiest in a masrhy area.It attracts butterflies and birds. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

Lobelia alata

This a very fast growing variable sprawling perennial groundcover with prostrate branches that root at the nodes and it grows about 20cm. Some of the branches become erect and may reach a height of 450 mm or even taller if growing up through other vegetation. The little flowers may be white or varying shades of blue or mauve. It flowers from November to June. The fruit is a capsule containing a number of small seeds. This is a fast growing species especially in warm, damp conditions. Bees have been seen visiting the flowers and are presumably the pollinators of this species. It is a very attractive,lovely looking groundcover for wetland areas and dry condition. Mystically it is used to attract love and stop storms. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Lobelia cuneifolia

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 0.2 x 0.2m. It is a fast growing groundcover when planted in a warm, semi-shade area. It is a water loving plant. The blue/purple flowers open in summer. It looks lovely when planted in a hanging baskets or containers as it will scamper off over the edge. Mystically it is used to attract love and stop storms. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Lobelia flaccida

(Wild Lobellia)

This evergreen groundcover grows about to about 30cm and it is a very fast grower. It an ideal plant for a wetland and should be planted in a semi-shade. The lovely, attractive blue flowers open in summer. It also makes an excellent edging in flowerbeds or can be grown in containers and hanging baskets. Mystically it is used to attract love and stop storms. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Mentha longifolia

(Wild Spearmint)

An evergreen, fast-growing, perennial herb that creeps along the ground and spreads rapidly. It can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions, but is usually between 0.5-1 m high and even shorter in dry conditions. The small flowers of Mentha longifolia are crowded into spikes at the tip of the stems. This wild mint flowers throughout the summer and the flowers are white and mauve. They are heavy feeders and water lovers. Mint grows in semi-shade and full sun. They do well in pots where they are contained. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, cystitis, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Wild mint leaves have been used topically to treat wounds and swollen glands. Some farmers make a bath of mint "tea" to wash their dogs to rid them of fleas. It can be used in the kitchen as a substitute for the exotic mints. I make a glass jug of cold mint tea which is refreshing on hot summer days. It is the larval host plant of the Bush Bronze and the Tsomo Blue butterflies.Mentha is the Latin name for mint from the nymph Minthie, mistress of Pluto, daughter of Cocytus, who was turned into mint by the jealous Proserpine.

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