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Bauhinia tomentosa

(Yellow Tree Bauhinia)

This small deciduous tree is evergreen if planted in a mild climate. It grows moderately fast and has non-aggressive roots. They grow naturally in the Transvaal and Natal. It is both frost and drought resistant. It grows happily in semi-shade or full sun. The marvellous yellow flowers have a brown throat and they open in summer. They are rich in pollen and nectar and are enjoyed by grey louries. They attract various insects such as butterflies and bees. The stems are used for baskets and hut rafters. It responds well to pruning and makes a successful hedge. I've seen them hedged at about 1 meter and 2-3 meters. The leaves are browsed by black rhino, grey duiker and kudu. It has non aggressive roots and is great in a small townhouse garden, in a pot on a patio or next to a swimming pool. It is used medicinally as the bark is used as a vermifuge, the stems are used as an astringent gargle and the flowers are used for dysentery and diarrhea. A light annual pruning encourages flowering. It is the larval host plant for the Orange-barred Playboy butterfly.

Buddleja salvifolia

(Sagewood)

This small, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pink/mauve flowers open in the summer and they attract birds, bees and many butterfly species. It is useful for hedging/screening or containers. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not observed that. It is used to stabilize embankments around dams, streams and rivers. It is very useful as a nurse plant to protect other trees in very cold areas, so one would plant 2 trees in the same, large hole. Once the frost tender one has grown, the Buddleja salvifolia can be removed. It is magical and medicinal and the roots are poisonous and are used in withcraft but the flowers are used as a springtime tonic. This tree is an indicator of underground water or streams. It is useful on a game farm where it is browsed. It is used medicinally as the roots are used to treat coughs and colds and eye infections and colic are treated with a leaf infusion, with only 4 leaves in a cup of hot water. A root decoction is used for stomach aches and upsets, colic diarrhea and flatulence. Bark is steeped in hot water over night and is used to treat sores and scratches as well as an eye lotion. The fresh or dried leaves are used to make tea, to be enjoyed black with honey. Established trees are easily transplanted. Flowers can be dried for pot pourri. Named for Adam Buddle 1660-1715 an English amateur botanist, vicar and plant collector. He created Britain's first herbarium.

Clausena anisata

(Horsewood)

A deciduous, small, neat and attractive tree. It is often maligned, as the crushed leaves give off a strong, aniseed-like scent which is considered by many to be unpleasant. In some plants the smell is pleasant but in others it's Afrikaans common name ‘Perdepis’, meaning 'horse urine' is most descriptive. The ripening fruits which turn from red to black are much loved by birds and are very attractive. It produces yellow flowers in spring and they attract insects which in turn attracts the insect eating birds. This tree deserves a spot in any garden but don't crush the leaves if you find the scent objectionable. It has non-aggressive roots system and the leaves are used to flavour curry.It is medicinal and is used for internal parasites, fevers and heart ailments. The leaves are burnt as a mosquito repellent and sticks are used as toothbrushes. The leaves are used to make a tea to strengthen the blood and it has a host of medicinal and magical uses. The wood is used for sticks and hut building. Steam for the twigs and leaves is used to strengthen Xhosa babies. This is the larval host to two moth species and the Citrus, Constantine, Emperor, Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded Swallowtail butterflies.Named for Peder Claussen Friis ( 1545-1614) who was a Norwegian parish priest and a naturilist. He had a great interest in geography, history and ancient languages and wrote prolifically.

Dais cotinifolia

(Pompon Tree)

This small, fast growing, drought and frost resistant tree has a lovely rounded, leafy crown. It can be single- or multi-stemmed, with the brown stems covered in small speckles of whitish cork. In very cold areas they are deciduous, but in warmer climates they only lose their leaves for a short time at the end of winter. The trees flower in early summer and the new flower buds look like lollypops. This is a wonderful tree for the garden as the flowers last for a month and they are useful in flower arrangements. Place a thick layer of mulch or compost around the base of the tree as this helps to keep the soil moist and cool, suppresses weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. It attracts butterflies. The bark is stripped and used for whips, binding or plaited into rope. They do not have aggressive roots so can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool and is suitable for townhouse gardens. It is fast growing, at about 1 meter a year. It prefers full sun and doesn't seem happy near the coast. An admirer who saw a tree in flower, took seed back to Holland where it was grown in 1757. It was named by one of the greatest botanists, Linnaeus.

Dichrostachys cinerea

(Sickle Bush)

This is a small deciduous tree which is water wise and grows to 5 metes, happily in the sun. The pink/yellow flowers are fragrant and appear in spring and resemble a ballerina with a pink skirt and yellow legs. The name Dichrostachys means two coloured spikes. The Shona name, Mapangara means 'the tree that provides tassels for the chief's hat'. In Botswana it is called 'the Kalahari Christmas tree'. The fine foliage resembles that of the Umbrella Thorn, The tightly twisted pods also resemble those of the Umbrella Thorn.The leaves and pods are eaten by Rhino, Monkeys, Giraffe, Bushpig, Impala, Nyala, Kudu, Elephant and Buffalo so it's great for a game farm. It makes a great thorny, security barrier but the spines are lethal to tyres. Durable hard wood is used for termite resistant fencing posts, and firewood which burns slowly. The inner bark is tough and pliable and is used to make twine and strong rope. The flexible branches are used as hunting bows in the Kalahari. All parts of this tree are used medicinally. The leaves are used for sore eyes, wound cleaning, headaches and toothache while the roots are chewed and placed on snake bites and scorpion stings. This is useful to know when one is hiking in the bush.The root is considered to be a pain killer and is used after giving birth. This tree is used for urinary problems, eye wash, catarrh, bronchitis, pneumonia, a purgative, sore throat, VD, syphilis and an aphrodisiac. It is drunk as a tea or used topically. The dried leaves and roots are burnt and the smoke is inhaled to relieve chest complaints and a blocked nose.It is drought resistant and a good bonsai subject. It attracts many insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is anti-witchcraft and is planted at the homestead as a protective charm. A medicine horn filled with dried parts is used to protect one from snake bite. The roots are non aggressive. This is the larval host plant for the Satyr Emperor and Topaz Blue butterflies and 3 moth species. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'chroos'=colour and 'stachys'= spike referring to the bicoloured flower.

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks!The roots and twigs are antimicrobial. An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

Dombeya rotundifolia

(Wild Pear)

This deciduous tree can reach 5 to 10 meters. The stem is often crooked and the rough bark is dark grey-brown. It produces lovely white pinkish scented flowers in early spring and is a striking sight. These flowers attract bees and butterflies. One of it's common names is "Bruidjie van die bosveld" because it looks like a bride clad in white. It likes summer rain and a dry winters. The leaves are thick, rough and hairy. The word rotundifolius means having round leaves. They are browsed by game, elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, sable and steenbok and the inner bark is used for twine. The bark is stripped, soaked for 2 days and then pounded with round rocks till soft and smooth. These fibres are twisted into string and rope . They are also used to bind dressings in place. The heavy wood is termite proof and is used for implement handles, fence posts and ornaments. The bark is traditionally used to relieve headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, to hasten labour and for abortions. Roots are used for abdominal upsets, colic, diarrhea and rheumatism. Root decoctions are rubbed into the body to dispel the effects of witchcraft. Makes a lovely bonsai and is cold and fire resistant. Very good street tree as it does not have aggressive roots so plant it about 3 meters from buildings and pools. Dried flowers are used in floral decorations. This is the larval host plant for the Ragged Skipper butterfly as well as 9 moth species. Named for Joseph Dombey 1742-1794, a French naturalist, physician, botanist and traveller. He researched the cinchona plant which produces quinine for malaria. He wrote numerous books that were only published once he had died. Sometimes his specimens were captured and sent to the British Museum instead of the French one. They were also confiscated. On a trip to the USA they were struck by a storm and never arrived. He was captured and imprisoned, for a ransom, in the West Indies where died in jail.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Grewia occidentalis

(Cross-Berry)

This small, deciduous tree is a must for all gardens, big or small. It is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. It has pink flowers in summer followed by edible fruit which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters like the louries, mousebirds, bulbuls and barbets. The fruit is enjoyed by people and is sometimes dried for future use. They are then boiled in milk for a delicious milkshake. It is the larval host plant to the Buff-tipped Skipper and the Rufous-winged Elfin butterfly and is useful for informal hedging/screening. It certainly is a useful tree as the fruit is used to make beer, the bark is used to make a shampoo which prevents grey hair and the bark is soaked in hot water to make bandages, string and rope.It is also magical and medicinal as small twigs and bark are soaked in hot water and this is then used to clean wounds. A tea is made from twigs and leaves and this is taken for barrenness, impotency and to ease childbirth. it is also used to was both the mother and infant after childbirth. The wood is used for assegai handles, bows and arrows, fences, hut building, making basket handles and walking sticks. It is useful on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by cattle, goats, black rhino, giraffe, kudu, nyala and grey duiker. The roots are not aggressive. It can be used as informal screening. Such a wealth of uses and pretty too. Named after Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) a British physian, physiologist and botanist known as 'the father of plant physiology'. He graduate from Cambridge university in 1661 and then studied medicine at Leyden University in 1671. He published many works including The anatomy of Plants in 1682 and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Greyia sutherlandii

(Natal Bottlebrush)

This is a small tree, 3 to 7 m tall. It is deciduous and in late autumn the leaves turn shades of bright red. The leaves are simple, alternate, rather leathery, slightly lobed and coarsely toothed. The leaf surface is hairless and minutely glandular. The leaf veins radiate from the base. The leaf stalk is long and straight.The beautiful flowers are red, with oblong petals and long protruding stamens. The showy flowers open in closely packed racemes at the tips of the branches and bloom at the end of winter and early spring. They are laden with nectar and attract starlings, sunbirds, bulbuls, barbets and mousebirds. The fruit is a pale brown, cone-shaped, cylindrical capsule. It splits in 4 or 5 parts when ripe to release seeds from October to December. The wood is pale pink and generally light and soft. Young trees are compact and old trees do not grow tall but they spread and have rough, dark trunks. It is relatively frost hardy, and fairly drought resistant. Under suitable conditions with well-drained soil and good aeration, it is a fast grower but may not grow taller than 3 m in a garden. It does not flower well in coastal areas. It also attract butterflies and the bark is used in traditional medicine while root infusions are used as an emetic to treat biliousness. Named after Sir George Grey ( 1812-1898) and English soldier, explorer, governor, politician and botanist. In 1826 he went to The Royal Military College at Sandhurst and became a captain in 1839. He explored Australia and became Governor of South Australia, New Zealand and the Cape Colony ( 1854-1861.He collected specimens that were sent to Kew Gardens and Flora Capensis Volume 1 is dedicated to him.

Heteromorpha trifoliata

(Parsley Tree)

This small (3-7 m) deciduous tree is frost resistant and grows in the sun. In summer the yellow/green flowers attract insect eating birds. The trees are also used for nesting sites and they attract butterflies. The bark is very beautiful as it’s a shiny copper colour which splits and curls back on itself. The new bark looks like satin. There are two splendid examples on the main path at Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. The crushed leaves smell like parsley hence the common name. They are variable in both size, shape and colour as they vary from light green to grey. The flowers are small and form a powder puff shape. They attract insects and butterflies. The winged fruit are creamy brown and appear in April. The leaves are browsed by game and Black Rhino. Roots and leaves are used in traditional medicine for a multitude of ailments. The leaves are used in an enema for abdominal, mental and nervous disorders as well as intestinal worms in children. The bark is used as a vermifuge for horses. The smoke of the bark is inhaled for headaches. It is also a protective charm against lightening and increases the power of the chief. The roots are used for shortness of breath, coughs, colic, blood, stomach and kidney purifier as well as weakness in men. The volatile oils indicate that is is anti baxcterial and anti fungal. It is also used as a sprinkling charm.

Pappea capensis

(Jacket-Plum)

This long-lived, hardy, semi deciduous, small to medium sized tree grows to a height of 2-8 m with a spreading, rounded crown.It is found in savanna grassland or rocky outcrops everywhere in SA except the Western Cape. Under ideal conditions it can grow at a moderate rate but can be slow-growing under dry and/or cold conditions. The leaves are simple and oblong, hard-textured and wavy. The leaf margin may vary from sharply toothed (especially in young growth) to almost smooth in mature growth. The new leaves in Spring are pinkish bronze. The greenish, scented flowers are borne on catkins in the axils of the leaves in summer, followed by round, green, velvety fruits which split open to reveal bright red flesh with a dark brown to black seed imbedded within. The edible fruit is eaten by people, various birds and animals, like monkeys, which in turn distribute the seeds in their droppings. The leaves are browsed by game such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, bushbuck, and grey duiker as well as domestic stock animals. The sweetly scented flowers attract a wide variety of insects which in turn attract many birds. The seed is parasitized by a small, bright red bug (Leptocoris hexophtalma) which sucks the oil from the seed on the ground below the tree. Oil is extracted from the seed and is used medicinally against baldness, ringworm, nosebleeds, chest complaints, eye infections, and venereal disease. It is also used to oil guns and to make soap. The fruit is used to make a preserve. Bark is also used as a protective charm. The wood is hard and is used for sticks. Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pool. It has non-aggressive roots and is suitable as a street tree or in a parking lot. It is the host plant to the Common Hairtail, Gold-banded Forester and the Pearl-spotted Charaxes butterflies. Lovely in a wildlife garden. Named for Carl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe (1803-1862) German physician, economic botanist and plant collector. He studied medicine and botany at Leipzig before moving to Cape Town in 1831 where he practised as a doctor before moving to UCT as a Professor of botany.

Rotheca glabrum ( was Clerodendrum glabrum)

(White Cats Whiskers)

Clerodendrum glabrum now called Rotheca glabrum White Cats Whiskers SA Tree No. 667 This small deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pretty pink flowers open in Spring. They attract butterflies, moths, bees and ants. It is the larval host plant for 11 moth species and the Natal bar and the Purple - brown Hairstreak butterflies. It is also useful as the leaves are rubbed onto the hands and face to repel bees when collecting honey. The fruit is used to make a blue dye and is eaten by birds. It is useful for hedging/screening and it has non-aggressive roots. The branches are used for poles for hut building. The wood is hard and is used to start fires. It is resistant to salt spray so is useful for coastal gardens. The medicinal properties are varied. The leaves are used to treat intestinal parasites, coughs, fevers, to aid sleep and prevent bad dreams, for rashes and toothache. When crushed, the leaves have insect-repellent qualities and are made into a lotion to prevent maggots and parasites on the wounds of animals or as a wash for tick infections. It is believed to protect against witchcraft and is considered anti viral. Pounded roots are bound over snake bites, especially Mamba bites. Its also useful on a game farm as it is browsed by game and is ideal for a small garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'kleros' meaning chance or fate and 'dendron' meaning tree. According to legend these trees possessed medicinal properties and one took a chance on them as it varied in several species.

Rotheca myricoides (was Clerodendrum myricoides)

(Blue Cats Whiskers)

This is an evergreen to deciduous small tree/shrub depending on the environment. Ours in our cold garden are deciduous. It is not fussy requiring full sun, shade or semi-shade. It produces blue to purple flowers in Spring and Summer, which are very beautiful. The edible fruit is eaten by birds and monkeys. It is a lovely, shrubby tree for an informal border and is also an ideal plant for containers as it can be pruned to any shape of choice. It attracts birds and butterflies. It is used medicinally as the powdered bark is used to treat snake bite, sterility, impotence, body swellings, chest pains, colds, bleeding gums, indigestion and headaches. it is thought to be anti microbial. The dark purple variety is called Clerodendrum ugandens. The name is derived from the Greek 'kleros' meaning chance or fate and 'dendron' meaning tree. According to legend these trees possessed medicinal properties and one took a chance on them as it varied in several species.

Searsia dentata ( Rhus dentata )

(Nana-Berry)

A deciduous shrub to small tree up to 6 m high, with a smooth, greyish brown bark. The leaves, which are pink when young, turn dull yellow to orange-red in autumn. The small, yellowish green flowers are borne in clusters at the end of the branches from September to November, and this species has male and female flowers on different plants. The flowers are followed by the shiny, bright red fruits, in heavy clusters from November to January on the female plants. This species grows in almost any kind of soil. Young plants need lots of water but once they are established, they do not need much. These plants are therefore good subjects for water-wise gardening. This shrub does well in a cool soil, with a thick layer of leaf mulch on top. It prefers sun or semi-shade. It is frost and drought hardy and makes a beautiful container plant. It attracts birds and other insects. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro 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. Add new comment

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