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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.

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.

Metarungia longistrobus

(Sunbird Bush)

It is a small, soft shrub, branching near the base to form a dense shrub 1–2 m tall with a spread of 1–2 m. Branchlets are densely covered in short white hairs that are close to the stem, and are stiff to silky to the touch. The flowers are orange-brown to yellow and are produced twice a year, mainly in late summer to autumn but also in winter to spring. It is quick-growing and easy to grow. It needs well-drained, well-composted, fertile soil with water during the summer months. It requires a position that is semi-shaded, or in light shade, but flowers better in a position that receives a couple of hours of sun a day. It is suitable for planting on the south (shady) side of the house. It is a low-maintenance, undemanding garden shrub. Prune at the end of winter to keep it tidy and to encourage branching. It is also suitable for containers. It attracts birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek meta= after, beyond; Rungia.. A genus was originally called Macroungia but had to be renamed when the name was found to be illigitimate. So this new name was 'after' Rungia.

Mimusops zeyheri

(Transvaal Red Milkwood)

It is potentially a large, evergreen tree with a rounded crown which may reach up to 15 m under ideal, warm, frost free, moist conditions. It can also be a shrub or small tree in its natural range and only reaches its full potential in protected valleys and forest margins where moisture is more available. Small, white, sweetly scented flowers are borne in October to February. Fruits are oval with a pointed tip ripening yellow or orange from April to September. It looks good when planted near pools where there is full sun. An ideal plant for containers and bonsai because it has non aggressive roots. It attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Boisduval's False Acraea and the Chief False Acraea butterflies. The timber is used for furniture.

Mundulea sericea

(Cork Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, happy in the sun and produces mauve/purple flowers in summer. It occurs in northern Namibia, , Botswana, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. It attracts birds - insect eaters, nectar eaters and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland and impala. It has several uses as the twigs are used as toothbrushes, the bark is used as an insecticide and fish poison and the leaves are used to bleach hair. It is also used medicinally as the bark is used as an emetic to treat poisoning and the roots are used for fertility. It is an ideal tree for small gardens, particularly as the beautiful bark has a cork-like appearance, hence the common name. It will do well in pots if they are well drained and is lovely as a bonsai. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool. This is the larval host plant for 2 moth species as well as the Natal Bar, Common Blue and the Dusky Blue butterflies.

Noltea africana

(Soap Dogwood)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun. The white flowers are produced in summer. It attracts birds and is used for nesting sites. It also attracts butterflies. It has been 'adopted' by the landscaping trade, perhaps for its versatility. It makes a great screen, -windbreak or informal hedge. The plant always has an occasional red leaf right throughout the year. The glossy green leaves are a treat in our dry, brown winters in Gauteng. Its common name comes from the fact that a soapy lather is made from the leaves. It is also used medicinally to treat Black Quarter in cattle. Named for Ernst Ferdinand Nolte (1791-1875), a German botanist and physician , professor of botany and director of botanical art at Kiel. He studied medicine in Germany and at Moscow.

Nymphoides indica

(Water Lily)

This is a pretty, fast-growing, perennial water plant that grows about 30cm x 80cm. It has flat, rounded, floating leaves, and delicate yellow flowers appearing in summer. It makes a useful addition to ornamental ponds and dams, especially for gardeners who may be searching for indigenous alternatives to exotic water plants. It may be planted in the soil at the bottom of a pond in about 30-40 cm of water, although it is fairly tolerant of fluctuating water levels.

Olea europaea subsp. africana

(Wild Olive)

One of the oldest cultivated trees and is the symbol of peace as when Noah sent a dove from his Ark, it returned with an Olive leaf. In ancient Rome an olive branch was held to plead for peace and in ancient Greece, Irene, the Goddess of peace loved olives. The tree represents abundance and drives away evil spirits. This medium sized, evergreen tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is neatly shaped and has a dense spreading crown. The white/green flowers open in summer and they attract bees and butterflies. The flowers are replaced with edible, purple berries which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like starlings, pigeons, parrots and louries. They are also enjoyed by people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, and warthogs. The fruit is also used to produce black dye. It's useful for nesting sites. The leaves are browsed by game and stock and is a fodder tree for mammals. It is useful as a formal, pruned hedge or an informal hedge/screen. Very popular as a bonsai subject. They sometimes have aggressive roots so plant 4 meters from a building or a pool. It is protected in the North West Province, the Cape and the Free State. There are numerous medicinal uses for eye lotions, tonics for high blood pressure, kidney ailments, anointing oil and sore throats. Wild Olive tonic is available commercially and is used to treat headaches, colds and to build the immune system. It is believed that inhaling the smoke from a Wild Olive fire will cure a hangover. Magical uses are to protect against lightening, by putting a branch in an open doorway. Leaves are scattered to make a peaceful place and they bring luck. The beautiful golden brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments and fencing posts. As the wood is strong and durable, it is used for walking sticks, knobkieries and spear handles. It grows along rivers and is useful to stabilize the soil. A must for a bird garden! This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek elaia and the latin olea = classical latin name for the olive.

Othonna carnosa

(Othonna)

A fast spreading, evergreen succulent with cylindrical grey green leaves ,an evergreen groundcover that grows about 10cm. Lovely for a large sunny rockery or for holding soil on banks or gentle slopes. The daisy shaped flowers opens all year long and it attract lots of bees and other insects. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly. It is a drought resistant plant that is easily grown and requires little attention but be careful not to over water. The name is derived from the Greek othonne = linen, cloth; referring to the soft texture of the leaves.

Panicum maximum

(Guinea Grass)

This perennial, tufted grass has a short, creeping rhizome . The stems of this robust grass can reach a height of up to 2 m. A bent stems touching the ground will root and produce a new plant. The leaf is covered in fine hairs. It remains green until late into winter. Spikelets are green to purple and flowering occurs from November to July. It prefers fertile soil and is well adapted to a wide variety of conditions. It grows especially well in shaded, damp areas under trees and shrubs and is often seen along rivers. It is most frequently found in open woodland, but also grows in parts of Mixed and Sour Bushveld. It is widely cultivated as pasture and is especially used to make good quality hay. If it receives adequate water, it grows rapidly and occurs in abundance in veld that is in a good condition. It prefers shade and damp areas and will do well under trees and shrubs. Water regularly. It can be planted successfully in plant containers around the home to attract seed-eating birds like the Bronze mannikin. It is the larval host plant for the Eyed Bush Brown and the Black-Banded Swift butterflies. The name is derived from the latin panis = bread as the seed is used in bread making.

Pappea capensis

(Jacket-Plum)

This long-lived, hardy, semi deciduous, small to medium sized tree grows to a height of 2-8 m with a spreading, rounded crown.It is found in savanna grassland or rocky outcrops everywhere in SA except the Western Cape. Under ideal conditions it can grow at a moderate rate but can be slow-growing under dry and/or cold conditions. The leaves are simple and oblong, hard-textured and wavy. The leaf margin may vary from sharply toothed (especially in young growth) to almost smooth in mature growth. The new leaves in Spring are pinkish bronze. The greenish, scented flowers are borne on catkins in the axils of the leaves in summer, followed by round, green, velvety fruits which split open to reveal bright red flesh with a dark brown to black seed imbedded within. The edible fruit is eaten by people, various birds and animals, like monkeys, which in turn distribute the seeds in their droppings. The leaves are browsed by game such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, bushbuck, and grey duiker as well as domestic stock animals. The sweetly scented flowers attract a wide variety of insects which in turn attract many birds. The seed is parasitized by a small, bright red bug (Leptocoris hexophtalma) which sucks the oil from the seed on the ground below the tree. Oil is extracted from the seed and is used medicinally against baldness, ringworm, nosebleeds, chest complaints, eye infections, and venereal disease. It is also used to oil guns and to make soap. The fruit is used to make a preserve. Bark is also used as a protective charm. The wood is hard and is used for sticks. Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pool. It has non-aggressive roots and is suitable as a street tree or in a parking lot. It is the host plant to the Common Hairtail, Gold-banded Forester and the Pearl-spotted Charaxes butterflies. Lovely in a wildlife garden. Named for Carl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe (1803-1862) German physician, economic botanist and plant collector. He studied medicine and botany at Leipzig before moving to Cape Town in 1831 where he practised as a doctor before moving to UCT as a Professor of botany.

Pavetta gardeniifolia

(Common Brides Bush)

Pavetta gardeniifolia Common Bride's Bush SA Tree No. 716 is a small, deciduous tree, which is drought resistant and has fragrant white flowers in summer. It grows well in the sun and attracts birds and mammals. It is useful for containers as the masses of white flowers in December make it a stunning sight! They have edible fruit, which is eaten by the fruit eating birds and monkeys and the flowers lure a variety of insects, which become food for insect-eating birds like the Southern Boubou. The nectar is also popular with birds. The fleshy fruits entice Crested and Blackcollared Barbets, Blackeyed Bulbuls and Mousebirds. People also eat the fruits.Useful in an informal mixed border and is ideal for a small garden.

Pavonia praemorsa

Pavonia praemorsa is an easy to grow perennial shrub which provides a splash of color almost all year round. The dark green leaves are shiny and leathery with shallow teeth on the edges. The stems are sometimes reddish. A rounded shrub that seldom grows to more than a meter tall. The flowers open on sunny days for just a few hours before closing and turn red before dropping off. An excellent plant for a border, hedge and screen. It is suitable for smaller gardens. It also attract bees, butterflies and other insects and these will attract the insect eating birds. It is water wise and drought resistant. Named for Jose Antonio Pavon 91754-1840) a Spanish pharmacologist, botanist and explorer. In 1777 he went to study the flora of Peru and Chile for 10 years. He collected 3000 specimens, 2500 life size botanical illustrations and discovered 500 new species.

Peddiea africana

(Green Flower Tree)

This is a much branched shrub or small tree in the fringes or in underbrush of evergreen forests. It is found along the South African east coast in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, as well as in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and further north in tropical Africa. The leaves are simple, spirally arranged or alternate and they are glossy green and leathery. The flowers are tubular. Flower colour may be greenish yellow or tinted red-brown or maroon in spring to summer. The fruit is a berry that turns purple or black when ripe, sometimes with a tuft of creamy hairs at the tip. While the plant is poisonous, the fruits are eaten by birds. The bark is used to make rope. Named for John Peddiea who died in 1840.

Peltophorum africanum

(Weeping Wattle)

This specie occurs in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. An attractive, low branching, wide spreading shade tree with a fairly dense crown of olive-green feathery foliage. This deciduous tree grows to 9m x11m and is drought resistant. It requires full sun and moderate watering. It is a half hardy plant which must be protected from frost when it is young. Its has non aggressive roots so plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Grows fairy fast in fertile soil. The terminal sprays of bright yellow crinkly pea shaped flowers appear in summer and are visited by bees . The wood is used for fuel and for furniture. It attracts birds and butterflies. The spittle bug exudes a liquid and that gives rise to the common name of Weeping Wattle. The leaves and pods are browsed by game, elephant, kudu, giraffe and the bark is eaten by black rhino. The bark is also used medicinally for coughs, sore throats, fever and intestinal parasites, eye complaints and VD. A root decoction is used for infertility, backache and a purification rite for widows. The leaves are also used medicinally for toothache and in a wash to expel evil. It is the larval host plant for 6 moth species and the Common Scarlet, Satyr Emperor and the Van Son's Emperor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek pelte = small shield ; phorum = carrier; referring to the shape of the stigma.

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