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Brachylaena discolor

(Wild Silver Oak)

These medium sized evergreen trees are frost resistant, drought resistant and are happy in the sun or the shade. It tolerates poor soil and coastal winds so is useful to stabilize sand dunes at the coast.The cream flowers are rich in nectar and open in summer. They attract birds like the shrikes and the orioles, butterflies and mammals. The leaves are browsed by Nyala, Bushbuck,Diuker and the Black Rhino strip the bark. The early settlers burnt them and used the ash to make soap whereas the Zulu diviners use the stems and roots to communicate with their ancestors. It is used medicinally as the leaves are pounded and ingested for intestinal parasite and roundworm. discolor means varying in colour which refers to the dark upper leaf and the silver under leaf. It is also used as a tonic for diabetes. The wood is used for carving, boat and hut making, fencing and spear shafts. It has non-aggressive roots so can be planted 3 meters walls or in pots. It is also useful as a hedge or windbreak.

Dovyalis zeyheri

(Wild Apricot)

This a small to medium sized, evergreen tree grows from 2-13m. The stem can be single or multi-stemmed. The bark is a light grey-brown and it becomes rough and flaking on older trees. The flowers are small and greenish yellow. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees from August to December. The fruits are found only on female trees. They are bright orange and oval in shape with a velvety texture. They reach up to 25 mm long and appear from November to May. The wild apricot is a good tree for wild fruit which tastes sour but refreshing and is eaten by people and animals. The fruit makes a good jelly but some sweetening is required. The thorns which provide protection for birds' nests, along with the fruit make this an excellent wildlife garden tree. The caterpillars of the African Leopard Butterfly feed on the leaves. In the garden, the wild apricot is tolerant of moderate frost, although young plants should be protected for the first two years. It is also drought resistant and grows well in either full sun or light shade. It grows well in sandy or loamy soil to which compost has been added. Because of its non aggressive roots system its an ideal plant for containers. A lovely shrub/tree for birds and butterflies.

Portulacaria afra

(Elephant's Foot, Spekboom)

Nature's wonder plant that purifies the air. A friend of mine has one growing in a pot in every room in her home. The porkbush is an attractive, evergreen succulent shrub or small tree that can reach 2 - 5 m in height, although usually around 1.5 - 2 m in a garden situation. It is protected. It has small round succulent leaves and red stems. Small star-shaped light pink to deep red flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring although flowering in cultivation is often erratic. They are a rich source of nectar for many insects, which in-turn attracts insectivorous birds and is used as nesting sites. Bees use the nectar to make honey. It also attracts butterflies. The fruit are like inflated paper lanterns and are mauve or rose coloured. They thrive in warm situations on rocky slopes, in bushveld and dry river valleys. This bushy tree makes a lovely screen or hedge. The leaves of the porkbush can be eaten and have a sour or tart flavour. It is heavily browsed by game and domestic stock and highly favoured by tortoises. The porkbush is useful for preventing soil erosion. Traditional uses also include the increasing of breast milk for lactating mothers. The leaves are used to quench thirst, and sucking a leaf is used to treat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke. There are many medicinal uses as crushed leaves can be rubbed on blisters and corns on the feet to provide relief. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for a sore throat and mouth infections while the astringent juice is used for soothing skin conditions such as pimples, rashes and insect stings. The juice is also used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for sunburn. The leaves are excellent fodder for most domestic animals and game such as grey duiker, klipspringer, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu and elephant. A sprig is placed on top of Tomato Bredie as it is cooking and this imparts an elusive and tangy taste.

Vachellia tortilis (Acacia tortilis)

(Umbrella Thorn)

It is a most classically shaped Acacia and is the well known emblem of one of our commercial banks and was the subject of many of Pierneef's paintings. The flat top droops slightly at the edge, producing an umbrella shape. It occurs naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Noah apparently used this wood to make The Arc. It has both hooked and straight thorns.The flowers open in summer and are white pompoms and sometimes so profuse that the tree appears blanketed in snow. Baboon and monkeys enjoy eating the flowers. It makes a striking specimen and is highly sought after for bonsai. It requires full sun and survives drought and frost. It grows well in any soil even in clay soil although it is an indicator in the wild of good soil and grasses for grazing. It stabilizes the soil. The bark is used to make fibre for ceremonial skirts and it is used to make a yellow dye. Elephant are fond of the bark and often tear off strips which result in the death of the tree. In the Kruger National Park sharp rocks are placed around the trees to protect them from the elephants as they don't like walking on sharp rocks. Attracts birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, springbok, bushbuck, impala, duiker and giraffe while the contorted pods are enjoyed by monkeys, baboons and parrots. The gum is edible and is enjoyed by Bushbabies. It is slow growing but the wood is used for fuel. It is planted to stabilize the soil as it has an extensive root system. It is the larval host plant for the Topaz Blue and the Brown Playboy. 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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