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Agapanthus inapertus

(Drooping Agapanthus)

This is a deciduous groundcover, (1m -1.2m), which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The blue or purple flowers open in summer and they attract birds and butterflies. It occurs naturally in very cold grasslands and makes a good garden subject. One must just interplant it with evergreen groundcovers so that there is not a gap in your garden bed during the winter. The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Inapertus means 'not open' and refers to the flowers.

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.

Crinum bulbispermum

(Orange River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The stunning pink flowers are sweetly scented and are a show stopper in spring. They attract much admiration, as well as butterflies. This is a Highveld wetland plant so it would do well in a damp spot. It is the provincial flower of the Free State. It is magical as it is planted to protect the home from evil. It is used medicinally to ensure an easy delivery and to stimulate breast milk. It is also used to treat colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, reduce swelling, blood cleansing, kidney and bladder problems, sores, boils, acne and as a poultice for septic sores. Juice from the leaf is used for earache and a roasted slice of the bulb is placed over the ear to ease the pain. A brew of the leaves in water is used for malaria, rheumatic fever and kidney problems. It produces masses of seed and propagates easily from seed. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

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.

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.

Eucomis autumnalis

(Pineapple Flower)

An apt name for this deciduous groundcover, as the flower looks just like a pineapple, which are yellow/green in colour and open in summer. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a good cut flower for the vase as it’s long lasting and most unusual. It is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. Hangovers are cured by making a brew from the bulb. It is also used for kidney and bladder ailments. The leaves are used as a poultice for boils and skin problems and they are also used to treat a fever. Cattle are treated for gall sickness. A brew is used as an enema for a protective charm or the bulb is mixed with animal fat and this is rubbed into the body to protect one from illness and evil. The name is derived from the Greek eukomes=beautifully haired, eu=well and kome=hair of the head referring to the crown of leaves at the top of the flower.

Gloriosa superba

(Flame Lily)

It is a deciduous, striking, tuberous, climbing plant with brilliant wavy-edge yellow and red flowers that open in summer. It needs to be watered well in summer however water should be withheld once the foliage begins to turn yellow. The tubers are prone to rot under moist conditions during the winter months as it is dormant in winter. The flowers are long lasting in a short vase. Although it is a poisonous plant with the roots being the most poisonous, it is a medicinal plant. Root sap is used for tooth ache. An infusion of the root is used to treeat intestinal worms. The leaves are used to treat skin problems, sprains and bruises. The paste of the corm is fried in butter and put on gout and arthritis. The root sap is also used to treat bruises, sprains, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, impotence, infertility, toothache, worms, snake bite, dog poisoning and its used as an aphrodisiac. Despite it being poisonous, porcupines eat the roots. The seed heads are pretty and the seed is threaded into necklaces which are worn for protection and strength. The root is used to kill dogs and a snake deterrent. It is Zimbabwe's national flower. The name is derived from the Latin gloriosus=glorious referring to the colours and shape of the flowers.

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.

Merwillia plumbea (was Scilla natalensis)

(Blue Squill)

This very fast growing, graceful bulb grows to 50cm x 20cm. It is deciduous, growing during summer and dormant in the winter and should be kept dry during that period. This is an easy plant in cultivation and is ideally suited to the rockery but will do equally well in a container. It can also be used to good effect planted in clumps or drifts in the mixed border. It is lovely used in an indigenous meadow, planted amongst indigenous grasses. Each individual flower is not long-lasting, but there are so many of them opening in succession that the inflorescence will last for up to a month in the garden, and it is a useful cut flower. It requires a sunny or semi-shaded position. The lovely rocket shaped spikes of misty-blue flowers open in summer and are displayed on long stalks. It is traditionally used to heal internal tumours, boils and sores. The bulbs are hung and take 5 months to dry. The powered bulb is used to treat fractures and sprains. The cooked bulb is eaten as a laxative. It is analgesic and anti microbial. It is also used as an emetic to rejuvenate the body and promote fertility in women.It attracts butterflies. Named for Frederick Ziervogel van der Merwe ( 1894-1968), a South African botanist and medical doctor. His medical degrees were achieved at Trinity College in Dublin, Liverpool University and Wits. As a medical inspector he travelled widely and he had an interest in botany, particularly the Aloe and Scilla families. His other interest was collecting sheet music of Africana value. He also wrote the first Afrikaans dictionary of medical terms. The name is derived from the Greek skilla=squill or sea leek and the Greek skyllo=injure which refers to the poisonous bulb. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katharinae

(Katherine Wheel)

This is one of our most beautiful bulbs. The word ‘mutiflorus’ refers to the large flower which is 25 cm in diameter and is made up of numerous smaller flowers to form a ball. They are pinklish, orangy red and last for about 2 weeks. The seed is red when ripe so just as attractive. It likes moist shade and occurs from the Eastern Cape all the way up into Central Africa. I shall never forget the first time I saw it in flower at Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. It literally stops you in your tracks. Although it is poisonous it is also used medicinally and to make love charms. Named from the Greek scias= that which you know and the Greek doxus = glorious splendid referring to the magnificent, bright orange red flowers. A glorious umbrel.

Scadoxus puniceus

(Paintbrush)

This deciduous bulb is rare and worth trying to track down. It has huge crimson flowers that open in spring and last for about 4 months during summer. The bright red seeds then fill the space and are quite eye-catching. As it is deciduous one doesn't have to worry about it during a frosty winter. It prefers a very shady garden and even does well indoors. Although the bulb is poisonous it is used in traditional medicine. The roots are used to treat a couch, headaches and pregnancy. Named from the Greek scias= that which you know and the Greek doxus = glorious splendid referring to the magnificent, bright crimson flowers. A glorious umbrel.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

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.

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