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Dietes iridioides

This evergreen groundcover has sword-shaped, dark green leaves in a loose fan. This prolific flowerer carries its flowers on a wiry, arching stem. The flowers are white with mauve markings, dainty and new flowers open continually during spring and summer. It is drought-resistant and will thrive in semi-shade as well as full sun, often where little else will grow. It tolerates both wind and frost. There are many medicinal uses as infusions made from the rhizome are taken orally or in enemas to treat dysentery, are used during childbirth, for hypertension and as a tonic for goats. Roots are used for first menstruation. It is also an ideal plant for a wetland garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Digitaria eriantha

(Common Finger Grass)

It is a deciduous grass grows to about 1.8m. It grows relatively well in various soils, but grows especially well in moist soils. It is tolerant to droughts, water lodging, suppresses weeds and grows relatively quickly post grazing. This grass demonstrates great potential for farmers in Africa in subtropical and tropical climates, mostly for livestock feed. It produces brownish flowers in summer and it good in controlling soil erosion. It attract birds. The name is derived from the Latin digitum = finger and aira referring to the shape of the flower.

Eragrostis curvula

(Weeping Love Grass)

A robust densely tufted grass that grows to 1,2m high. It produces many long loose hanging leaves, hence the name ‘curvula’. it flowers from August to June. It grows in disturbed places such as old cultivated lands, roadsides, and in well drained fertile soil. It is one of the best grass with which to stabilize expose soil. The seed is used to make bread and to brew beer. The name is derived from Greek eros=love and agrostis=grass, referring to the graceful heart-shaped spikelets.

Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

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.

Imperata cylindrica

(Cottonwool Grass)

A water loving creeping grass that spreads with long rhizomes and can form dense stands. Cottonwool grass grows in a poorly drained damp soil such as vleis and riverbanks. White flowers open from August to June. It is hardy to frost, fast growing and should be planted in the sun or semi-shade. This is an ideal grass for wetlands. It also protects the soil from soil erosion. It is also a useful grass as it is used for thatching, making paper and fuel. The seed also attracts birds. Named after Ferrante Imperato ( 1550-1625) an Italian scholar of many subjects. He also formed a museum and studies how fossils were formed.

Juncus effusus

(Common Rush)

Juncus effusus is a clump forming wetland plant that is a striking vertical addition to any garden or container planting. It grows to 70cm high and 30cm wide. Upright, fanning, deep green, rounded stems make a great accent in container or water gardens. It can be planted at the edge of that is about 20 cm deep. Inconspicuous golden flowers appear on top of the stems in summer. It provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife and it is also used to make traditional sitting mats. It thrives when planted in sun and is an ideal plant for a wet land garden or around a water feature. They attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Juncus krausii

(Matting Rush)

This perennial herb grows to a height of 1.5 m and grows in large colonies where it occurs naturally. Its leaves are tough, round and spine-tipped, and the sheath is shiny black. The purplish brown flowers appear between October and February and are topped by spine-tipped bracts. It can grow in many soil types ranging from sandy soils to clay provided there is enough water. It is also used to make traditional mats. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Leucosidea sericea

(Ouhout)

Ouhout. Troutwood is a perfect name as it occurs along rivers where trout are found. The “Ouhout” refers to the bark which looks old even at a young age. It grows to about 4 meters, is evergreen and is fast growing if it has enough water. It is useful for nesting and attracts butterflies and insects. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not experienced that.The margins of the leaflets are deeply serrated. The crushed leaves have a strong herb-like smell. The flowers are greenish-yellow in colour, star-shaped, and grow in spikes at the ends of young shoots in spring. The fruits are nut-like. It usually grows in damp conditions, on deep, sandy or clay or rocky soil. It is frost resistant and it is ideal to use as a nurse tree to protect less frost hardy plants in winter. The tree is browsed and the wood burns slowly. It is also used to start fires. Useful used as fencing poles. It is used medicinally as the ground leaf paste is used for eye problems, a vermifuge and as a protective charm to protect people in the home. The name is derived from the Greek leukos=white; idea= appearance; referring to the overall hairiness of the leaves.

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.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm)

This small evergreen tree is relatively frost resistant and grows in the sun or semi-shade along river banks where it stabilizes the embankment. Yellow flowers in summer are replaced by orange seed which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters. Plant it near a water feature as an accent plant. It can also be used for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. This tree is protected in South Africa. The large leaves are woven to make baskets and mats and the sap is trapped for wine and beer making. The roots produce an edible gum which children enjoy and they contain tannin. The fibres from the fruit stems are used for brooms and the leaf midribs are used for hut building and to make fish kraal fences. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are nutritious and edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. It is used to make beer and wine. The spines are used in traditional medicine and the tree is used to treat pleurisy.The roots are eaten to aid healers. Birds, monkeys, elephant and baboons eat the ripe fruit. bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. It is the larval host for the Palm-tree Nightfighter Butterfly. The wood is light and of no use. The Caterpillar of the Skipper butterfly feed off the leaves. The Palm Swift bird uses the tree for nesting. Certainly a very useful tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name comes from the early Greeks who called a Date Palm a Phoenix. The 'reclinata' comes from the Latin "bend down' or 'bend back' which refers to the arching leaves.

Phragmites australis

(Common Reed)

This evergreen reed grows to about 3 meters tall and is found in wetlands and dams. It is frost resistant and has a multitude of uses. Flowers are produced from December to June. It plays very important role in protecting the soil from erosion, filters water and offers shelter to many bird species and other animals. It is even used to make paper, baskets and is used in the chemical industry. They are tied together and used to make walls for houses. The rhizomes are edible and the hollow stems are used for pipes and musical instruments. The seeds are used to make ointment for burns. Weavers use these to build their nests on. The Bushmen of the Kalahari make their arrow shafts from this plant. The name is derived from the Greek phragmites =growing in hedges, from phragma = a fence, hedge, from phrassein = to enclose.

Phygelius aequalis

(River Bells)

A fast growing water-loving plant with oval soft textured leaves. This herbaceous shrub grows to 2m. It will thrive when planted in rich,loamy soil with plenty of compost and it requires lot of watering in summer. If there is frost damage the plant it will recover well in spring. It also makes lovely yellow drooping tubular flowers. It is traditionally used as a charm to ward off hail damage to crops.Its looks beautiful planted next to the pond and it attract butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Phygelius capensis

(Cape Fuchsia)

A semi-evergreen shrub growing to 120 x 150 cm wide. The oval leaves are up to 9 cm .Throughout summer it produces tubular flowers which are orange-pink colour along the outside of the petals, with a yellow center. The flowers often point back towards the stem. They also surround the stem, unlike P. aequalis where the flowers appear all on one side of the stem. The plant has an exceptionally long blooming season of roughly six months, from May to November. The plant grows well in most fertile soils but may require some winter protection in colder areas. It requires full sunlight and thus is generally only an outdoor plant. It is medically used to inebriate boys during initiation ceremonies and is therefore considered to have ritual qualities. form borders. Phygelius capensis makes the ideal border plant because of its long blooming season. It attracts sun birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Salix mucronata

(Safsaf Willow)

This graceful semi-deciduous to evergreen tree grows to 15m with an open crown and slightly drooping branches. Older trees have beautiful fissured, brown bark, while younger trees have smooth, green-red bark. The leaves are simple, alternate and taper to both ends. They are glossy, dark green above and light green below. The leaf margins are serrated. They are browsed by stock, hippo, nyala, kudu, grey duiker and bushbuck. The African leopard butterfly's larvae also feeds on the leaves. Flowers appear in short spikes with males and females on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, yellowish and can be up to 50mm in length. The greenish coloured female spikes are shorter and thicker. The flowing season is in summer. Monkeys eat the flowers. The fruit is a small capsule, which splits to release seeds covered with white fluff. Traditional uses include, applying bark powder to burns, and brewing tea from the leaves to treat rheumatism and malaria headaches and it is a mild laxative. This tea is also used as a skin lotion and to stimulate hair growth.It is also drunk as an appetizer. The Zulu tie the thin branches around their waist to treat abdominal and kidney pains and to give them strength.Young tree branches are used to make baskets, fire by friction and covered in a protective mixture to ward off storms and lightening. The wood is carved to make household, as well as decorative items. The tree can withstand both frost and drought. It is a water loving tree so plant it near a pond or dam but it may have aggressive roots. It will attract herons, darters and cormorants which will use the Salix for breeding. The name is derived from the Latin salia=willow, implying to spring or to leap. Willow branches are very flexible and when bent and released, they spring forward.

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