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Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus textilis

(Emezi Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 1.5m high and 1m wide. It is an attractive accent plant for a dam or pond. It forms a clump of bare stems, each topped by a rounded head of narrow spiky leaves. The stems are used to make traditional sleeping mats, baskets and twine. It is frost resistant with brownish flowers in summer. Plant it in the sun or semi-shade in a wetland or next to a water feature where it will get sufficient water. It attracts birds which use it for nesting. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

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.

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.

Ekebergia capensis

(Cape Ash)

It is a beautiful, tall tree with a lovely canopy. Evergreen over much of its range however it is briefly deciduous in cold or dry winters. The dark, glossy leaves are lighter beneath and they turn yellow then red just before they fall. The sprays of tiny white flowers are sweetly scented, like orange blossoms and are pollinated by bees and ants. It flowers between September and November and male and female flowers occur on separate trees. It produces large fruit which are fleshy and red but only female trees bear fruits. These are edible and taste of onions. They are eaten by birds like the Hornbills, Louries and Mousebirds, mammals, monkey and baboon. The fallen fruit is eaten by bushpig, bushuck and nyala. It is also browsed by game, kudu, nyala and bushbuck and is used as fodder in times of drought. It is useful for a game farm. It also attracts butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the White-barred Emperor butterflies, the fastest flying butterfly in Southern Africa. Nine moth species also use this tree. Plant in full sun where it will get lots of water, Be warned that it is frost tender and is only suitable for warm Highveld gardens. The wood is used for furniture and beams and the bark is used medicinally for heartburn and dysentery. Roots are used to treat coughs, gastritis and headaches. The leaves are used to treat intestinal worms. It makes a good, fast growing street and shade tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. It is a protected tree in South Africa. Named for Carl Gustov Ekeberg (1716-1784) a Swedish ships captain who worked for the Dutch East India Company. He was also a chemist, cartographer and a surgeon. Between 1742 and 1778 he made 10 trips to China and India and brought back plants for his friend Linnaeus. He wrote numerous books about his travels as well as one about inoculation. He was a fellow of the Swedish Academy of Science and Knight of the Order of Vasa.

Erythrina lysistemon

(Common Coral Tree)

Occurs on the Witwatersrand, Swaziland, Transkei and Natal. It is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers in winter-spring. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees. The red flowers are show stoppers and are loved by nectar feeding birds and bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. Monkeys eat the flower buds. The roots are aggressive therefore plant it 6 meters from buildings, pools and roads. Plant it in full sun and be aware that it is frost sensitive when young so do protect them from frost. This tree is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The bark is medicinal for toothache, to treat wounds, arthritis, earache and strips of the bark are used to tie bundles of herbs. Chiefs use the bark mixed with the root of the Cussonia as a purifying emetic. A branch is planted on the deceased's grave as this is said to protect the person in the afterlife. There are trials underway as the seed is said to be a painkiller. The leaves are used to ease the healing of sores, or boiled in water to make ear drops. The fresh leaves are also placed in the shoes to treat tired feet and cracked heels. The leaves are browsed by Black Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Nyala, and Klipspringer, so it's great for a game farm. The seeds are eaten by Cape Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots. The wood is prone to wood-borer so the woodpeckers enjoy them.The roots are eaten by bushpigs and porcupines. The Lucky Bean seeds are put into wallets to bring luck. Branches can be cut and planted as living fence poles. Drought resistant. This is a popular bonsai subject. We planted one next to a Dombeya rotudifolia and as they flower simultaneously in early spring, it is a joy to behold! The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

Ficus lutea

(Giant-Leaved Fig)

An evergreen tree with a neatly flat topped canopy often twice as wide as the tree is tall. It has enormous leaves epitomising a tropical bounty. The figs are yellow, furry and fairly small and borne on terminal branches. They attract birds and bats. It likes good rainfall and will tolerate wind and salty sea spray. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.Host plant of the Fig Tree Blue butterfly and it is pollinated by a wasp.

Helichrysum splendidum

(Cape Gold)

A fast growing shrub which grows to 1,5 m x 1 m within 2 years, forming a dense grey mound. The new growth on the outside is stiff, but not woody. The older branches at the base and in the middle of the bush turn hard and brown with age. The stems are covered with a thick felt of woolly white hairs. The soft young leaves are also covered with grey woolly hairs. The leaves are aromatic with a slight camphor scent when rubbed. In mid-summer, from November to February, the shrub is covered with bright yellow flowers. The flowers have a slight sweet perfume. This easy to grow shrub requires very little maintenance provided that it is given a large enough area to spread without smothering its neighbours. Like most plants with grey foliage, Helichrysum splendidum needs to be planted in the full sun. Plant in a well-composted bed with good drainage, full sun and occasional good watering. To shape and encourage new growth, the shrub can be prune lightly after flowering.

Hippobromus pauciflorus

(False Horsewood, Basterperdepis)

This fast growing tree grows in forest and along streams, so it likes moist conditions. It is semi deciduous. The white flowers are small and grow in velvety heads which open in autumn. The leaves have a very unpleasant odour resembling horse urine, when crushed, hence the afrikaans common name. The new leaves are reddish in colour. The larvae of the Swallowtail feed on the leaves. It is used medicinally as the crushed leaves are used to treat a headache and the roots are used for dysentery, eye problems and diarrhea. It is also used as a love charm. The wood is used to build huts.

Ilex mitis

(Cape Holly)

This is a medium sized evergreen tree with a straight trunk, attractive bark and a rounded canopy which is fast growing in the sun and frost hardy. Do protect young trees for the first few years. The twigs and leaf stalks are reddish in colour. Sweetly scented, white flowers occur in spring or early summer. They are followed by fruit which ripen on the female trees in autumn, turning bright red, are densely packed along the stems. They provide bright splashes of colour, attracting many kinds of birds, like louries, doves, pigeons, bulbuls, starlings and barbets. It is a useful tree which attracts butterflies and can be used near wetlands. It is also medicinal as the bark is chewed as a purgative. Elephants eat the leaves. The leaves create a lather when rubbed together. The wood was used to make wagons, furniture, fuel and the heels of ladies high heeled shoes. Roots are non aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool.

Kiggelaria africana

(Wild Peach)

This medium sized, well shaped and reasonably robust tree has smooth pale grey bark that becomes rough with age. It is found from the Cape Peninsula to Tanzania. The variable leaves of this evergreen tree may resemble those of the peach. The tiny, bell-shaped flowers which bloom from spring to summer, are yellow-green, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The hard, round, knobbly, greenish yellow capsule which forms in late summer to mid-winter splits to expose shiny black seeds, enclosed in an oily, sticky, bright orange-red coat. The birds like pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, louries, hornbills, robinss, shrikes, starlings. thrush, white - eyes and mousebirds can’t resist these seeds. This tree is said to attract lightning, but some people use it to protect their homes. It is frost hardy and drought resistant and it needs to be planted in full sun. The wood is used for furniture. It is a larval host for the Garden Acraea and the Battling Glider butterflies. This tree is always found where there is underground water or streams. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Names for Francois Kiggelaer (1648-1722) a Dutch botanist, plant collector, traveller and curator of Simon van Beaumont's garden in The Hague.

Milletia grandis

(Umzimbeet)

It occurs in Natal and the Transkei. A deciduous medium sized tree. It is a spreading tree with a good canopy. The leaves show seasonal colour changes as the new leaves are glossy yellow the colour being almost masked by the purple-brown veins and mature leaves are conventional green. The flowers are pea-shaped, deep bright lilac or purple and cover the tree in spring. The fruits are hard, velvety, brown-coloured pods, with green and gold wefts that glint in bright sunshine. It requires full sun to semi-shade and it can survive moderate drought and frost. Baboons strip and eat the bark. The hard wood is used to make furniture, walking sticks and was used for ox wagon parts. The root is used medicinally to induce sleep and dispel worries. This is the recipe: roots are ground with Croton root, add 1 part lion fat, ground lion bone and 1 part python fat and this is burnt . The seeds and roots are used for arrow and fish poison. It is also the larval host plant for the Pondo Emperor and the Orange-barred Playboy butterflies. This is my favourite tree as the new leaves are attractive, the tree is a show stopper when in flower, the velvet seed pods are lovely as are the seeds. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Charles Millet (1792-1873) was a plant collector who worked for the Dutch East India Company in China. He collected botanical samples from China, Ceylon and Java which he sent to Kew Gardens and Cambridge University.

Mimusops zeyheri

(Transvaal Red Milkwood)

It is potentially a large, evergreen tree with a rounded crown which may reach up to 15 m under ideal, warm, frost free, moist conditions. It can also be a shrub or small tree in its natural range and only reaches its full potential in protected valleys and forest margins where moisture is more available. Small, white, sweetly scented flowers are borne in October to February. Fruits are oval with a pointed tip ripening yellow or orange from April to September. It looks good when planted near pools where there is full sun. An ideal plant for containers and bonsai because it has non aggressive roots. It attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Boisduval's False Acraea and the Chief False Acraea butterflies. The timber is used for furniture.

Olea europaea subsp. africana

(Wild Olive)

One of the oldest cultivated trees and is the symbol of peace as when Noah sent a dove from his Ark, it returned with an Olive leaf. In ancient Rome an olive branch was held to plead for peace and in ancient Greece, Irene, the Goddess of peace loved olives. The tree represents abundance and drives away evil spirits. This medium sized, evergreen tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is neatly shaped and has a dense spreading crown. The white/green flowers open in summer and they attract bees and butterflies. The flowers are replaced with edible, purple berries which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like starlings, pigeons, parrots and louries. They are also enjoyed by people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, and warthogs. The fruit is also used to produce black dye. It's useful for nesting sites. The leaves are browsed by game and stock and is a fodder tree for mammals. It is useful as a formal, pruned hedge or an informal hedge/screen. Very popular as a bonsai subject. They sometimes have aggressive roots so plant 4 meters from a building or a pool. It is protected in the North West Province, the Cape and the Free State. There are numerous medicinal uses for eye lotions, tonics for high blood pressure, kidney ailments and sore throats. Wild Olive tonic is available commercially and is used to treat colds and to build the immune system. It is believed that inhaling the smoke from a Wild Olive fire will cure a hangover. Magical uses are to protect against lightening, by putting a branch in an open doorway. The beautiful golden brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments and fencing posts. As the wood is strong and durable, it is used for walking sticks, knobkieries and spear handles. It grows along rivers and is useful to stabilize the soil. A must for a bird garden! This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek elaia and the latin olea = classical latin name for the olive.

Pentas lanceolata

(Egyptian Starcluster)

Pentas lanceolata is an excellent small shrub for a colourful garden. It grows to around 1m in height, with summer and autumn flowers like neat round bouquets of tiny stars, in colours of red, white, lavender, purple, cerise and various shades of pink. It is one of the best butterflies attracting plants. It blooms all summer long, even during the hottest weather. It seems happiest in semi shade. Lanceolata refers to the lance shaped leaves.

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