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Rapanea melanophloeos

(Cape Beech)

Rapanea melanophloes Cape Beech The steady and graceful Cape beech is suitable for a large garden or it can be used as a hardy screening plant, as it is dense, evergreen and sends out suckers to form bush clumps. It requires low maintenance, if planted in the right area. Do not plant it next to paved areas, where roots and new suckers can sprout. This is a hardy tree which is useful for a coastal garden and windy areas. When young, the leaves are pale green and maroon. Small, whitish or creamy yellow clusters of flowers appear in June to December. The fruits are spherical in shape, green when young and purple when matured. It is not common to find flowers and fruit on the same tree. Fruits start appearing three months after the flowers. The flower attracts bees and flies and the fruit are eaten birds like guinea fowl, pigeons, louries and barbets. Baboons, bushpigs and vervet monkeys also enjoy the fruit. The wood is very hard and is used for furniture and violin making as it is very similar to the European Beech. It is used medicinally for stomach and heart complaints and as a charm to ward off evil. The roots are non aggressive. The name is probably derived from the Guinean name meaning unknown.

Schotia brachypetala

(Weeping Boerbean)

This large, handsome, evergreen tree is drought resistant and relatively frost resistant in warm areas. It is found in riverine forests so is adaptable as it grows in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It occurs naturally in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal and Natal. The stunning rich, deep red flowers open in spring and summer and they attract birds, the insect, fruit and nectar eaters. They are also eaten by louries, parrots, baboons and monkeys. It flowers best after a long dry winter so don't be tempted to water it in the winter. The leaves are browsed by baboon, giraffe, impala, nyala and black rhino. It is also used for nesting sites and attracts Foxy and Giant charaxes butterflies. The bark is traditionally used to make sangoma's red dye and the seeds are roasted and eaten. The seeds were eaten by the early Boers. It’s a magical tree and is used to ward off evil. There are many medicinal uses as a decoction is drunk after excessive beer drinking and for heartburn, nausea and diarrhoea. The smoke from the leaves is inhaled for nose bleeds. Powdered leaves are put on ulcers to speed up healing. The bark contains tannin and is used for tanning leather. The wood is hard and is used for furniture, flooring and fuel. It’s a show stopper when in flower but do remember that it drops nectar on parked cars, hence the common name! The roots are not aggressive so plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The Tsonga common name of "Mvhovhovhoz" imitates the sound of the swarming insects at flowering. Named for Richard van der Schot ( 1730-1790) a Dutch gardener who studied at Leiden and became head gardener at the imperial Gardens at Schonbrunn. He was then asked to take a 4 year journery to Grenada, Saint Vincent, Aruba, Cuba and Curacao to collect tropical plants and 'curiosities' for the palaces natural history collection.

Sclerocarya birrea

(Marula)

It is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree with an erect trunk and rounded crown and can grow to 20m tall. It is one of the plants that played a role in feeding people in ancient times. It produces yellow flowers in spring and these attract insects, ants, bees, flies and sunbirds. The delicious fruit ripens between January and March and is rich in Vitamin C and are eaten by animals and people. Elephant are known to travel large distances to find the trees in fruit. They then shake the tree in order for the fruit to fall. One tree in the Okavongo swamps produced 70,000 fruit. It is used for jam, jelly, juice, to brew a beer, sweet wine, port and Amarula Liqueur is commercially made from the fruit. Beer is made by putting the ripe fruit into a container and filling it with water. It is then left for 2 days before the fruit is squashed and the skins discarded. Sugar is then added and it is left for 4 days to ferment. This beer is commonly known as ' kick like a horse'. The Tsonga call the fruit 'Food of the Kings'.The seed are highly nutritious and taste like walnuts.They are stored and eaten raw or cooked with maize meel. They have a high oil content and are burnt as candles. They are pounded to separate the oil which is used in cooking , as baby oil or as a moisturiser. A decoction of the grey, mottled bark treats dysentery, diarrhoea, rheumatism and has a prophylactic effect against malaria. The bark is an excellent remedy for haemorrhoids. Roots and bark are also used as laxatives. It is used to determine the sex of an unborn child. A drink made from marula leaves is used for the treatment of gonorrhoea. Leaves and root bark are used to treat snake bite. Traditional healers drink an infusion before treating someone with gangreen. Sometimes one finds a tree with a wound, probably caused by a traditional healer or someone who collected material for medicinal use. It is fast-growing, with a growth rate of up to 1.5 m per year. This tree is very sensitive to frost and grows best in frost-free areas under warm conditions. If planted in areas where there is mild or occasional frost, it must be protected at least during the first few growing seasons. It would be wise to plant it on the northern side of a building where there is always enough light. It is not recommended for Highveld garden. It attracts butterflies and the bark produces a light brown dye which is used in basketware. It grows from truncheons planted in spring and is a protected tree. These are favoured by leopards who haul their prey up the straight trunk and settle on the broad branches to dine. Elephants love the fruit, leaves and bark as do warthog, waterbuck, giraffe, kudu, civet, primates and squirrels. Useful for a game farm. Lizards also eat the fruit. It is the larval host plant for the African moon moth as well as butterflies. The wood is used for pestles to stamp grain, drums, plates, spoons and dug-out-canoes also known a 'makoros'.

Searsia chirindensis (Rhus chirindensis)

(Red Currant)

The red currant is a semi-deciduous shrub to small tree, 6-10 m tall although it may reach 20 m. Young and coppicing branches are armed with spines, although the mature tree is spineless. The flowers are small, yellowish green and are borne in clusters at the ends of the branches from August to March. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees. The edible fruit, which is round, shiny, slightly fleshy, dark reddish brown are borne from December to March, in heavy clusters which can weigh down the branches. They are also enjoyed by people and fruit eating birds like pigeons, louries, bulbuls, barbets and parrots as well as monkeys. The leaves and the bark are browsed by Black Rhino, kudu, duiker, bushbuck and nyala. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade and should be planted in well-drained, composted soil. It does not have an aggressive root system. It will tolerate moderate frosts and is drought hardy. The sap of this tree is used in traditional medicine for treating heart complaints. The bark is also used to strengthen the body, to stimulate circulation and in the treatment of rheumatism and mental disorders. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The wood is red and is used to make furniture. We have had Mopani worms on the tree in our nursery which delighted my staff as they eat them. A lovey shade tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Senegalia galpinii (Acacia galpinii)

(Monkey Thorn)

This deciduous tree loses its leaves during the winter and is drought and frost resistant. It has a large rounded crown and is fast-growing as it can reach 25-30 m. The flower buds are purple-red and the creamy white, spike flowers open during September-October. They smell of honey! Reddish to purplish brown pods ripen during February-March. It survives hot and dry conditions and is a stunning tree as a street tree provided there is sufficient space. It is an ideal tree for a big garden. It is grazed and used for shade by giraffe, kudu and elephant. Many birds nest in this tree as it provides protection. We have a pair of grey Hornbill that nest in one on our property. It provides dappled shade on hot summer days, making it an ideal tree for planting on a lawn where some sun can penetrate. Many insects such as bees and wasps visit the flowers so it also attracts insect eating birds. The bark is used for rope and the wood is used for furniture. Mature trunks are rough and the bark often flakes away in rectangular patched. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. This tree has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 8 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Ernest Edward Galpin (1858-1941)a South African botanist and banker. He left 16,000 sheets to the Natural Herbarium and several species are named after him. .

Syzygium cordatum

(Water Berry)

An evergreen, water-loving tree, which grows to a height of 8 -15 m. This tree is often found near streams, on forest margins or in swampy spots. The leaves are elliptic to circular, bluish green on top and a paler green below. Young leaves are reddish and they are browsed by game. The white to pinkish fragrant flowers are borne in branched terminals and have numerous fluffy stamens and produce abundant nectar and therefore planted by bee keepers. It flowers from August to November. The fruits are oval berries, red to dark-purple when ripe and the fleshy fruit is slightly acidic in flavour and is eaten by children, monkeys, bush pigs, bush-babies and birds. The berries are also used to make an alcoholic drink. The powdered bark is used as a fish poison which turns the water blue for a week. In Central Africa the tree is known as a remedy for stomach ache, colds, fever and diarrhea. It is also used to treat respiratory ailments and tuberculosis. The bark, leaves and roots are used to make a poultice to increase the milk flow of lactating mothers. This beautiful tree attracts birds and other insects so it is ideal for a bird garden. The wood is used for furniture and for boat building as it is durable in water. It is the larval host plant of the Silver-barred Charaxes, Morant's Orange and the Apricot playboy butterflies. This is a protected tree is South Africa. Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pond. The name is derived from the Greek syn=together; zygon=a yoke hence syzygos=joined; referring to the paired branches and leaves.

Trema orientalis

(Pigeonwood)

This is a fast-growing shade tree with soft foliage, best suited to gardens and streets in the warmer and wetter regions of southern Africa. Depending on climatic conditions, trees may be evergreen or deciduous. It's a good shade tree or street tree although not as tough and cold-hardy as Celtis africana (white stinkwood). In forests it is a straight, slender tree, up to 18 m on forest margins, and in the open it is wider-spreading, sometimes drooping, and in the KwaZulu-Natal bushveld it often grows as a shrub approx. 1.5 m tall. The less water it receives, the shorter it is. Flowers are small, inconspicuous and greenish, carried in short dense bunches. They are usually unisexual, i.e. male and female are separate, occasionally they are found together. Flowers appear irregularly from late winter to autumn and are pollinated by bees. Fruits are small, round and green, becoming black when ripe. They are eaten by birds like the Lesser Striped swallows, white-eyes, canaries and bats. The leaves are carried on very short stalks-this is the easiest way to tell this tree apart from the White Stinkwood whose stalks are up to 13 mm long. The leaves are browsed by kudu. The young leaves are eaten as spinach by the Zulus, who also use the roots and bark as traditional medicine. Fruit, leaves, bark, stems, twigs and seeds are used in traditional medicine in West Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Madagascar.It is a food plant of several charaxes butterflies. The wood is used as box wood and the roots bind the soil. The name is derived from the Greek trema=aperture. hole, opening. The kernel of the fruit is pitted.

Vachellia sieberana (Acacia sieberiana var. woodii)

(Paperbark Thorn)

This tree occurs in Northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. It is easily identified by its dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark. The fluffy, scented white pompom blooms are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage. The papery bark is exceptionally attractive and peels off in flattish strips, displaying yellow under bark. The bark is highly flammable and sensitive to fire, so perhaps it’s best not to build a braai under it. Legend has it that one should write one’s wishes on a piece of bark and blow it away. This apparently guarantees that your wishes will be fulfilled. The bark shelters insects which are foraged by insect eating birds. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. The Buffalo Weavers nest in these trees. Pied and Crested Barbets like to make nesting holes in the bark. The bark is also used to create a grey dye. It will remain evergreen in a moist habitat but in cooler or drier parts it is semi or completely deciduous. The paired, white thorns are joined at the base and grow up to 100 mm in length. The light brown pods have a musty or fruity smell and are 100 to 200 mm long. The pods are browsed by game and the Grey Hornbills crack open the pods to eat the seeds but the leaves contain prussic acid which is dangerous to stock. A wonderful nesting and lookout site for many birds, and is a ‘food basket’ for a variety of birds, beetles, bees and other bugs. It is the larval host of the Black-striped Hairtail, Common Scarlet and the Silver-spotted Grey. It is medicinal as an infusion from the roots is used as an antiseptic and a bark decoction is a painkiller. It is also used to wash children who have a fever, stomach ache, acne, gonorrhoea, colds, tapeworms and diarrhea. The leaves are a vermifuge. The wood is used for general timber although easily damaged by insects. It is fasts growing and would make useful firewood and timber. It is often seasoned under water for 6 months to make it more durable. The gum is clear and of a good quality. Soot is added to the gum to make ink.It has been recorded as growing to about 200 years. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 7 meters from buildings and pools. This is a popular bonsai subject. Branches fall from these trees. All thorn trees drop their thorns so it is not suitable for a lawn. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

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