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Euphorbia ingens

(Common Tree Euphorbia)

An upright, succulent tree with a dark green crown which is well rounded and often shaped like a hot-air balloon. Grows up to 12 m. The branches are segmented with spines running along the ridges of the segments. It produces small, greenish yellow flowers on the ridges of the topmost segment of every branch from autumn to winter. The fruit is a round 3-lobed capsule which turns red to purple when ripening. These plants are easy to grow and make a wonderful addition to a succulent garden or rockery. As it is a succulent it needs little to no maintenance, being a very drought hardy plant. It does best in the open sun. Because of its poisonous latex/sap no pests seem to bother these trees. The latex of this tree is extremely toxic and can cause severe skin irritations, blindness and severe illness to humans and animals if swallowed. Grass is soaked in the latex and used as fish poison. it is also used medicinally in small amounts to treat cancer. The wood is used for boats, doors and planks. The trunk is first burnt to solidify the latex before it is cut as the latex in the eyes can cause blindness. It can be used for hedging and screening and an effective thorny barrier. It is frost tender. The fruit is enjoyed by monkeys while porcupine and cane rats eat the roots. The name is derived from the Greek eu=well and phorbe=pasteur referring to the Greek physician Euphorbus.

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.

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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