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Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Bulbine frutescens

(Stalked Bulbine)

These occur naturally in the Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This hardy, evergreen groundcover is dependable as it is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. There are both orange or yellow flowering forms and they flower all year. Plant with white Osteospermum for a lovely show. The flowers attract birds and butterflies. It is a medicinal plant as the leaf gel has excellent healing, antiseptic properties and is used for relieving stings, burns, rashes, liver spots, blisters, itchy spots, fever blisters, cracked lips, cold sores, cracked finger nails, mouth ulcers, and cold sores. An infusion of a few leaves in a cup of boiling water , is left to stand and then strained and drunk for coughs, colds and arthritis. It is used magically as an emetic if the patient is going mad after being bewitched. The leaves are eaten as a relish. It will be ideal for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in a vase. The name comes from the Latin for an onion or a bulb which is ironical as they are not bulbs. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby fashion'. Propagate from seed or division.

Erythrina lysistemon

(Common Coral Tree)

Occurs on the Witwatersrand, Swaziland, Transkei and Natal. It is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers in winter-spring. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees. The red flowers are show stoppers and are loved by nectar feeding birds and bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. Monkeys eat the flower buds. The roots are aggressive therefore plant it 6 meters from buildings, pools and roads. Plant it in full sun and be aware that it is frost sensitive when young so do protect them from frost. This tree is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The bark is medicinal for toothache, to treat wounds, arthritis, earache and strips of the bark are used to tie bundles of herbs. Chiefs use the bark mixed with the root of the Cussonia as a purifying emetic. A branch is planted on the deceased's grave as this is said to protect the person in the afterlife. There are trials underway as the seed is said to be a painkiller. The leaves are used to ease the healing of sores, or boiled in water to make ear drops. The fresh leaves are also placed in the shoes to treat tired feet and cracked heels. The leaves are browsed by Black Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Nyala, and Klipspringer, so it's great for a game farm. The seeds are eaten by Cape Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots. The wood is prone to wood-borer so the woodpeckers enjoy them.The roots are eaten by bushpigs and porcupines. The Lucky Bean seeds are put into wallets to bring luck. Branches can be cut and planted as living fence poles. Drought resistant. This is a popular bonsai subject. We planted one next to a Dombeya rotudifolia and as they flower simultaneously in early spring, it is a joy to behold! 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.

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

Kniphofia praecox

(Red-Hot Poker)

This is a must for a stunning winter garden. It is an evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant and fast growing. Plant a clump of them in the sun, in a moist area or a wetland. The orange-yellow flowers make a stunning display in winter and attract birds and butterflies. It is suitable for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in the vase. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

Polygala myrtifolia

(September Bush)

This attractive, small, evergreen shrub is able to adapt to most gardens as it is drought and frost resistant. A tough shrub suitable for coastal gardens, fynbos gardens, low maintenance and water-wise gardens. In a new garden it is excellent as a fast growing windbreak or a formal hedge.It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Its growth is a bit more lax, producing fewer flowers in the shade, but it grows happily in the difficult pockets that change from full sun to semi-shade with the seasons. It blooms throughout the year with a peak in spring ( August to October) when the plants flower profusely. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees.The fruit is a small, winged capsule which is enjoyed by doves. It is good for containers as its roots are non aggressive and it attracts butterflies like the Pea Blue..It is medicinal as the leaves are made into a poultice to treat gout.

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