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Carissa macrocarpa

(Large Num-Num, noem-noem)

This small evergreen tree grows to about 4 meters and is water wise. It flourishes in the sun or semi-shade. Fragrant white flowers occur from spring to mid-summer and they attract insects, butterflies and insect eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. This shrub is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is suitable for containers and coastal gardens as it tolerates wind and salt spray. It is a low maintenance plant. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked to produce a jam, chopped into salads, jelly or bredies. They produce pink dye. Macrocarpa means 'large fruit'. The root is used medicinally for coughs, a tonic or for VD. I stick is used in a hut to repel snakes and they are planted near the homestead for protection. In West Africa the roots are used to flavour stews and a piece of root and leaf is placed in water containers to keep it fresh. On the Highveld do plant it in a protected spot as they are frost tender when young.

Carpobrotus edulis

(Sour Fig)

This evergreen groundcover is fast growing and occurs on the sand dunes at the sea. This is fortunate as the leaves are used medicinally to treat Blue Bottle Stings and sunburn. It is water wise, frost resistant and is sun loving. The pink flowers open in summer and these attract insect eating birds. Fruits are eaten raw or processed into jam or used in oriental cooking. As early as 1815 it was made into jam and is still considered to be the finest of indigenous preserves. To make the jam take 500 g of very ripe fruit and peel them before leaving them on a cake rack overnight. Put them into a pot and boil until they are soft. Remove from the heat and drain. Make a syrup using 500 g sugar and 500 ml of water, 12 ml of lemon juice and salt along with the fruit. Boil till thick and the fruit are dark red colour. Bottle and enjoy. It is often planted to retain soil on steep banks as it roots as it creeps along the ground.There are numerous medicinal uses. It is used as an enema for children, those with allergies or diabetes. The leaf juice is astringent and antiseptic and is used as a gargle for sore throats as well as diphtheria, thrush, digestion, dysentery, bruises, scrapes, cuts, sunburn and ringworm. Fruit infusions are used during pregnancy to ease child birth. The leaf sap is put on a newborn's head to make the child nimble and strong. It was used as a remedy for TB mixing equal quantities of honey, sour fig leaf sap and olive oil. This was diluted in water and taken 3 times a day. The honey made from Carpobrotus pollen has a unique flavour. In 1700, plants were taken to the UK and Europe and they are now growing on the south coast of England and the Mediteranean. It is waterwise. The name comes from the Greek Karphos=fruit and brotos=edible.

Cassine aethiopica

(Kooboo-Berry)

An evergreen medium sized tree. The leaves are thickly textured and create dense shade. The flowers are white and are produce in summer, followed by bright red edible fruit. It is useful for screening. Plant it in full sun. It’s a useful tree as it produces brown dye from the bark, it’s medicinal and the hard wood is used for household items. It is also browsed by game.

Cassinopsis ilicifolia

(Lemon Thorn)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. Little white flowers open in summer and they are followed by little yellow fruit that look like miniature lemons and they attract insect and fruit eating birds like bulbuls, starlings, barbets, pigeons, guineafowl and francolins. The tree is also used for nesting sites and the leaves are browsed. It can be utilized for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is an ideal tree for small gardens and looks great near a pond. As it does not have aggressive roots it can be planted in a container, near a building or paving.If the leaves start to drop, this is an indication that it is water deprived. The name comes from the Greek opsis=resemblance as the genus resembles Cassine.

Celtis africana

(White Stinkwood)

This medium deciduous tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in sun or semi-shade. if well watered it will grow 2 meters a year. It occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Ethiopia. Tiny yellow, sweetly scented flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds. The fruit is also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The tree is also browsed by game like kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala and grey duiker. It is also used for nesting sites and a tall perch from which to lookout. Butterflies like the African Snout, Blue-spotted Emperor and the Foxy Emperor as well as several moths are also attracted to this fodder tree. It is a popular bonsai subject and the wood is used for furniture, construction, flooring, mine props, toys, ladders, boxes and crates. It is also used for firewood as well as charcoal production.It can be planted in a container. The common name is as a result of the unpleasant smell when the wood is first cut. It is magical as is used to protect against lightening by mixing the wood shavings with crocodile fat. The medicinal uses are numerous, treating a fever, headache, sore eyes and pleurisy. The bark is made into rope. It is always found where there is underground water or streams. Plant it 6 meters from buildings or pools. This is a protected tree in South Africa.

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.

Cerototheca triloba

(Wild Foxglove)

This deciduous shrub grows to 1m high and is frost resistant, drought resistant and requires sun. It produces mauve flowers in summer which attract butterflies and bees. It also has medicinal properties as it is used as an abortifacient.

Chlorophytum modestum

This is a small Chlorophytum, an evergreen perennial groundcover that grows to 10-60cm tall. It is a fast spreading groundcover, which forms clumps of soft textured leaves. The flowers are tiny, usually white and very attractive. An ideal plant for indoors. It is magical a the plant is infused in water which is then used as a protective, sprinkling charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers.

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.

Clematis bractiata

(Traveller's Joy)

This deciduous, twining climber or scrambler with woody stems can reach 5 meters. It produces lovely white flowers in summer and grows in most soils. It makes a trouble free and eye-catching sight. The untidy end-of-season growth needs to be cut back at the end of winter. It likes summer water and a dry winter. The leaves are traditionally used to relieve headaches, coughs and colds, chest ailments, abdominal upsets and as a soothing wash for aching feet, cracked skin, blisters and tired eyes. The inhaled scent of crushed tendrils and stems is said to clear a blocked nose, ease sinus headaches and encourage sneezing. The inhaled steam from the roots, stems and leaves in boiling water is used for relieving colds, malaria, sinus infections and asthma and a strong brew of leaves, stems and flowers in the bath relieves aching muscles, VD and thrush. Leaves are placed in the boots of hikers to relieve tired feet and blisters. They are also packed under the saddles of horses to prevent saddle sores. Leaves are also placed under a sun at to keep the head cool and to prevent heatstroke and sunstroke. It is also used as a good luck charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'klematis' meaning a vine branch, twig or tendril of a climbing plant.

Coddia rudis

(Small Bone-Apple)

Coddia are named for Leslie Edward Wastwell Codd (1908-1999) a South African botanist and agriculturist. He was highly educated and wrote 2 Botanica books and 160 publications. The main stem of Coddia rudis is usually short and multi-stemmed with arching branches. The bark is pale grey and contrasts beautifully against the green leaves. It produces white flowers in summer, followed by small fruits. It forms a compact shrub when browsed by game. The small, shiny leaves are borne in clusters or on opposite sides of the stems. This shrub is best used in an informal garden, a wild garden or an exclusion zone. Plant it in full sun and it is an excellent plant for a container and bonsai. Suitable for small garden. The fruit is eaten by people and birds and the leaves are heavily browsed by game. Named for Leslie Edward Wastell Codd 1908-1999.

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.

Combretum zeyheri

(Large-Fruited Bushillow)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree grows very slowly to 10 meters and is frost sensitive. It often has twisted trunks and the bark is light grey, smooth to fissured in patches, sometimes flaking. The leaves are large and bigger than many of the other Combretums. The yellow flowers occur in summer. The roots are used for basket weaving and to make necklaces for young girls and it is used medicinally to treat coughs and stomach pains.

Crassula arborescens

This is a medium sized shrub or small tree that glows silvery as a result of their bluish-grey foliage. It is an impressive looking single-stemmed, or many branched shrub or small tree, easily reaching a height of up to 3 m. The trunk is thick and fleshy and has a smooth, green-grey bark. The leaves show very little variation and are thick and fleshy, with a blue-grey colour, with a reddish rim, and the petiole is very short or absent. The star - like flowers are very showy and carried in dense branches above the leaves. They are white to pink in colour and open from Spring to Summer. After pollination, the flowers turn to a papery brown seed, which in itself is quite decorative. It attracts birds. This is the larval host plant for the Common Hairtail butterfly. Named from the Latin 'crassus'= and 'ula'= diminutive referring to the fleshy succulent leaves. It is used medicinally to treat epilepsy.

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