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Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow, slightly scented and open in September to November. The fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They stay on the tree for a long time. The fruit is poisonous and results in hiccups. A popular shade tree, surprisingly drought and frost resistant and fast growing, reaching 4-6 m in three years. The gum has interesting antibiotic properties and is applied to sores. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood, which is yellow, tough and easily worked. It is also used as fire wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots which is used when tanning hides. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements and are eaten by pied barbets. It has non-aggressive roots and attracts birds. It is the larval host plant for several butterflies like Liordes Hairtail, Red -tab Policeman, Two-pip Policeman and the Orange-barred Playboy. I just love these charming butterfly names! It is an ideal tree for wetlands as well as game farms as it is browsed by Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Giraffe and Elephant. It is often used as a street tree, in large gardens and along rivers. There are many medicinal uses. Root bark and stem bark are used to treat a cough, infertility, leprosy and VD. The bark is taken during labour to ease childbirth, to treat infertility and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are used for coughs and abdominal pains.The roots, which some regard as poisonous are used as a purgative, to treat venereal diseases and as a prophylactic for V.D. The roots are fed to dogs by the Zulu to fatten them up.

Digitaria eriantha

(Common Finger Grass)

It is a deciduous grass grows to about 1.8m. It grows relatively well in various soils, but grows especially well in moist soils. It is tolerant to droughts, water lodging, suppresses weeds and grows relatively quickly post grazing. This grass demonstrates great potential for farmers in Africa in subtropical and tropical climates, mostly for livestock feed. It produces brownish flowers in summer and it good in controlling soil erosion. It attract birds. The name is derived from the Latin digitum = finger and aira referring to the shape of the flower.

Salix mucronata

(Safsaf Willow)

This graceful semi-deciduous to evergreen tree grows to 15m with an open crown and slightly drooping branches. Older trees have beautiful fissured, brown bark, while younger trees have smooth, green-red bark. The leaves are simple, alternate and taper to both ends. They are glossy, dark green above and light green below. The leaf margins are serrated. They are browsed by stock, hippo, nyala, kudu, grey duiker and bushbuck. The African leopard butterfly's larvae also feeds on the leaves. Flowers appear in short spikes with males and females on separate trees. The male spikes are dense, yellowish and can be up to 50mm in length. The greenish coloured female spikes are shorter and thicker. The flowing season is in summer. Monkeys eat the flowers. The fruit is a small capsule, which splits to release seeds covered with white fluff. Traditional uses include, applying bark powder to burns, and brewing tea from the leaves to treat rheumatism and malaria headaches and it is a mild laxative. This tea is also used as a skin lotion and to stimulate hair growth.It is also drunk as an appetizer. The Zulu tie the thin branches around their waist to treat abdominal and kidney pains and to give them strength.Young tree branches are used to make baskets, fire by friction and covered in a protective mixture to ward off storms and lightening. The wood is carved to make household, as well as decorative items. The tree can withstand both frost and drought. It is a water loving tree so plant it near a pond or dam but it may have aggressive roots. It will attract herons, darters and cormorants which will use the Salix for breeding. The name is derived from the Latin salia=willow, implying to spring or to leap. Willow branches are very flexible and when bent and released, they spring forward.

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