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Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow, slightly scented and open in September to November. The fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They stay on the tree for a long time. The fruit is poisonous and results in hiccups. A popular shade tree, surprisingly drought and frost resistant and fast growing, reaching 4-6 m in three years. The gum has interesting antibiotic properties and is applied to sores. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood, which is yellow, tough and easily worked. It is also used as fire wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots which is used when tanning hides. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements and are eaten by pied barbets. It has non-aggressive roots and attracts birds. It is the larval host plant for several butterflies like Liordes Hairtail, Red -tab Policeman, Two-pip Policeman and the Orange-barred Playboy. I just love these charming butterfly names! It is an ideal tree for wetlands as well as game farms as it is browsed by Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Giraffe and Elephant. It is often used as a street tree, in large gardens and along rivers. There are many medicinal uses. Root bark and stem bark are used to treat a cough, infertility, leprosy and VD. The bark is taken during labour to ease childbirth, to treat infertility and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are used for coughs and abdominal pains.The roots, which some regard as poisonous are used as a purgative, to treat venereal diseases and as a prophylactic for V.D. The roots are fed to dogs by the Zulu to fatten them up.

Combretum molle

(Velvet Bushwillow)

Velvet bush willow is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that grows to 13 meters with a rounded crown. It has grey bark when young and this becomes grey-brown or almost black when older. Young leaves are attractive with a light pink or orange colour. Its flowering time is Sept.–Nov. The flowers are in dense axillary spikes with a greenish yellow colour, strongly scented and attractive to bees and other insects. The fruit is light green with reddish shade which turns red-brown when dry. Dried fruit is used in flower arrangements. It is used medicinally as the boiled root decoction is used for abortions, and to treat constipation, infertility, diarrhea, bleeding after childbirth, convulsions, fattening infants, backache and for difficulty walking which is caused by sorcery, headaches, stomach aches, fever, dysentery and swellings, and as an anthelmintic for hookworm. The leaves are chewed, soaked in water and the juice drunk for chest complaints. They are also boiled and used as a hot compress for wounds and snake bites. It can also be used as an inhalant in a hot steam bath to treat headaches. It is termite-proof and can be used to make fence posts, implement handles and bowls for grinding peanuts and mealies and mortars. Red fabric dyes are made from the leaves, whereas dyes made from the roots are yellow-brown. It is browsed by game. It is the larval host plant for the Guineafowl and Morant's Skipper butterflies. Canaries strip the bark for nesting. A very useful tree.

Dais cotinifolia

(Pompon Tree)

This small, fast growing, drought and frost resistant tree has a lovely rounded, leafy crown. It can be single- or multi-stemmed, with the brown stems covered in small speckles of whitish cork. In very cold areas they are deciduous, but in warmer climates they only lose their leaves for a short time at the end of winter. The trees flower in early summer and the new flower buds look like lollypops. This is a wonderful tree for the garden as the flowers last for a month and they are useful in flower arrangements. Place a thick layer of mulch or compost around the base of the tree as this helps to keep the soil moist and cool, suppresses weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. It attracts butterflies. The bark is stripped and used for whips, binding or plaited into rope. They do not have aggressive roots so can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool and is suitable for townhouse gardens. It is fast growing, at about 1 meter a year. It prefers full sun and doesn't seem happy near the coast. An admirer who saw a tree in flower, took seed back to Holland where it was grown in 1757. It was named by one of the greatest botanists, Linnaeus.

Erythrina humeana

(Dwarf Coral Tree)

They occur in the Transvaal and Swaziland. This small, deciduous tree has few branches and the striking flowers occur in mid-summer. They only grow to about 2 or 3 meters tall. They are custom-built to attract birds being red and tubular and as the flowers mature over an extended period of time there are always some in prime condition for the birds, sunbirds, black-eyed bulbuls, Cape White-eye, louries and brown-headed parrots. It is suitable for a small garden and on the Highveld it needs to be against a sunny north-facing wall to prevent frost damage. It grows to its maximum size within two years and prefers a warm summer with moderate rainfall. The bark and the roots are used medicinally. An excellent choice for a bird garden. It has non aggressive roots so can be planted in a pot. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

Greyia sutherlandii

(Natal Bottlebrush)

This is a small tree, 3 to 7 m tall. It is deciduous and in late autumn the leaves turn shades of bright red. The leaves are simple, alternate, rather leathery, slightly lobed and coarsely toothed. The leaf surface is hairless and minutely glandular. The leaf veins radiate from the base. The leaf stalk is long and straight.The beautiful flowers are red, with oblong petals and long protruding stamens. The showy flowers open in closely packed racemes at the tips of the branches and bloom at the end of winter and early spring. They are laden with nectar and attract starlings, sunbirds, bulbuls, barbets and mousebirds. The fruit is a pale brown, cone-shaped, cylindrical capsule. It splits in 4 or 5 parts when ripe to release seeds from October to December. The wood is pale pink and generally light and soft. Young trees are compact and old trees do not grow tall but they spread and have rough, dark trunks. It is relatively frost hardy, and fairly drought resistant. Under suitable conditions with well-drained soil and good aeration, it is a fast grower but may not grow taller than 3 m in a garden. It does not flower well in coastal areas. It also attract butterflies and the bark is used in traditional medicine while root infusions are used as an emetic to treat biliousness. Named after Sir George Grey ( 1812-1898) and English soldier, explorer, governor, politician and botanist. In 1826 he went to The Royal Military College at Sandhurst and became a captain in 1839. He explored Australia and became Governor of South Australia, New Zealand and the Cape Colony ( 1854-1861.He collected specimens that were sent to Kew Gardens and Flora Capensis Volume 1 is dedicated to him.

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