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Ficus ingens

(Red-Leaved Rock Fig)

This is an evergreen tree which is briefly deciduous and grows to 10 m, with a rounded or spreading crown and with a spread of up to 30 m wide. All the parts have milky latex which is visible when a leaf is broken. The bark is grey, smooth and becomes cracked in older specimens.The heart-shaped or lanceolate, dull green leaves are hairless and leathery, with conspicuous yellow veins running parallel from the midrib. New leaves are coppery or reddish. It has an aggressive and invasive root system and should therefore not be planted near buildings, swimming pools, drainage or sewerage systems. It is popular as a container plant and as a bonsai. Because it is such a lovely shade tree and is fast growing, it is suitable for large gardens. The leaves are reportedly toxic but the new leaves are eaten by kudu, nyala and grey duiker. The fruit is edible but not always as palatable as Ficus carica, although mammals like dassies, monkeys, squirrels baboons and bushbabies eat the fruit while fallen fruit is eaten by nyala, bushpig, waterhog, suni and grey duiker. Pigeons, parrots, louries, starlings, barbets and bulbuls enjoy the fruit. It is the larval host plant for the Common Fig-tree Blue and the Lesser Fig-tree Blue butterflies. It is pollinated by a wasp. Extracts of the bark are administered to cows with a low milk production. The latex is used as a substitute disinfectant for iodine. It is medicinal as the bark decoction is used for anemia.The wood is strong and is used for timber on the farms. It is fast growing but needs to be protected from the frost when young. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

Ficus sur

(Broom Cluster Fig)

An evergreen tree with a smooth and almost white bark. The autumn leaves can be showy but the spring flush is often spectacular as the new leaves are a brilliant red, changing to bronze. They sprout from the trunk or main branches. The leaves are eaten by cattle, elephant, kudu, blue duiker and nyala. They are also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The fallen fruit is also enjoyed by bushpigs. It tolerates slight frost and it needs full sun and lots of water. The fruits are edible. It is an excellent shade tree and is a magnet for birds and bats when the fruits are ripe. Even the Puffback Shrike enjoys the fruit. At least 3 butterfly species eat the leaves including the Fig Tree Blue. This tree is pollinated by a wasp. It will also thrive in a boggy spot provided that some of the roots are not in waterlogged soil. The roots are aggressive so don't plant it in a small garden or near buildings. It is not frost resistant. It certainly is a useful tree as the fruits are made into jam, the wood is used for fire by friction, drum making and mortars for grinding flour. Inner bark is used for rope making. It is also medicinal as the milky latex is used to treat lung and throat problems while the roots are used to expel the placenta of cows. The bark is also said to increase milk production in lactation mothers. The latex is also used to treat painful eyes and cataracts. A root infusion is taken by both men and women for infertility and to prevent an abortion. The bark is used for skin rashes and constipation. It is fast growing and prefers to be planted in the shade. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

Harpephyllum caffrum

(Wild Plum)

This is a large, evergreen tree that grows to 15 m tall. The main stem is clean and straight, but the forest form often has supporting buttress roots. The bark is smooth when young, becoming rough, dark grey-brown with fissures as it grows older. The Zulu common name is 'crocodile skin' which refers to the bark. The branches are curved upwards, with leaves crowded towards the ends, forming a thick crown at the top of the tree. The whitish green flowers in summer are borne near the ends of the branches with male and female flowers on separate trees. The tasty, oval, plum-like fruits first appear green and then turn red when they ripen in autumn. They contain a single seed and are enjoyed by people, monkeys, bushbabies and birds, especially the Cape Parrot. The fruit makes a good wine and jelly. The bark is a popular traditional medicine. It is used to treat acne and eczema, and is usually applied in the form of facial saunas and skin washes. It is used by people with 'bad blood' that results in pimples on the face. Powdered burnt bark is used to treat sprains and bone fractures. Bark is also used for dyeing, and it has a mauve or pink colour. In some parts of the Eastern Cape, root decoctions are traditionally taken for paralysis thought to have been contracted from walking over an area that has been poisoned or polluted through sorcery. It is a good shade tree to have in a garden to attract birds and is the larval host to the Common Hairtail butterflies and 7 moth species. Be aware that it is frost tender on the Highveld. Fast growing from truncheons and popular bonsai subject. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek (h)arpago=sickle : phyllon = leaf as the leaflets are sickle shaped.

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.

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.

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