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Phyllanthus reticulatus

(Potato Bush)

This is a branched shrub, sometimes partially scrambling, usually 1-5 m high, or a small twiggy tree that grows to 8 m in height. The bark is light reddish-brown or grey-brown with hairy stems when young, which become smooth with age.The leaves are alternate along slender branches. They are up to 25 cm long and appear as leaflets of large pinnate leaves. The leaves are thinly textured, usually hairless. They have a noticeable reddish net-veining which is more visible above than below. The leaves are browsed by game. It is usually a dense deciduous shrub or small tree with a distinct, potato smell that is emitted by the minute flowers when they open towards the early evening. It flowers from September to October. Potato bush grows best in deep moist soil, but can also tolerate sandy soil. It does not do well in dry conditions and that is probably the reason why so many of us have been unsuccessful keeping it alive on the Highveld. This plant is best planted together with other taller bushes where it can scramble. The fruit produces black dye and are loved by birds, small antelope and monkeys. It is used medicinally for a large variety of ailments. Root bark infusions are used to conceal secrets from diviners and also to give clear visions. Bark and leaves are used as a diuretic. Powdered leaves are put onto sores and burns while the twigs are used as toothbrushes. The roots and fruits have been used in criminal poisoning in Zambia. It is the larval host plant to 1 moth specie and the Albatros White butterfly. The name is derived from the Greek phyllon =leaf; anthos= a flower. In some species the flowers are born on leaf-like branches.

Pittosporum viridiflorum

(Cheesewood)

An evergreen tree that can reach 10m and is protcted in South Africa. They occur over a wide range of altitudes and in a variety of habitats. It does occur on the Highveld but is not common.The leaves are simple and a dark green to bluish green, but appear brilliant green when seen against the sun. They are eaten by cattle, goats, grey duiker, kudu, klipspringer, nyala and bushbuck. The cream/yellow flowers open in spring and are sweetly honey scented. They attract a number of insects and therefore also the insect eating birds.The fruits are bright red seeds which are coated in a sticky resin and enjoyed by doves, pigeons, louries, barbets, bubuls and starlings. Guinea fowl and francolin enjoy the fallen fruit. The bark has a sweetish smell, but a bitter taste and it is medicinal as it is used to treat stomach complaints, pain, malaria and fever. The dried bark is taken in beer as an aphrodisiac. It is also used as a protection charm to protect patients from witchcraft. It is frost hardy and requires full sun.Ideal for containers as it does not have aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek pitta = pitch; spora= seed. The seed is covered in a dark, sticky resin.

Polygala virgata

(Purple Broom)

This erect, slender, eye catching, evergreen shrub grows to a height of 1,5 to 2,5 m. A single stem is formed at the base of the plant and slender hairless branches occur at the top. It is fast growing, hardy and can be grown in any garden in South Africa. Once established in the garden it will tolerate drought, wind and some frost. With its beautiful sprays of flowers it will be an accent plant in a shrubby garden or rockery. Planted in good enriched soil in a sunny or semi-shade position in the garden. The purple tuft of hairs is a distinctive characteristic to identify all Polygalas. Peak flowering time is from September to February. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and the seed is small, black and oval shaped.Simple leaves are alternately arranged on younger branches and usually drops before flowering. The leaves are narrow in shape, dark green with a velvety texture and 10 mm in length. It grows naturally on bushy hillsides and along stream banks. It grows in sandstone, clay or limestone slopes and along forest margins. The leaves and stems were traditionally prepared and used as blood purifiers. It is anti viral and is used to treat Herpes simplex. The plant is grazed when in reach of stock and game. The beautiful flowering sprays can be used in a vase. The shrub is a buzz with bees, insects and bumblebees which are attracted to the bright purple magenta flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Long-tailed Blue butterfly.

Rhamnus prinoides

(Dogwood)

Grows in most parts of the country to 4-6meters. It makes a rounded, evergreen screen which is attractive with its glossy green leaves which are browsed by game. The leaves are used in beer and wine making. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish, blooming between November and January, in small clusters. They are loved by the bees, the Forest-king butterfly and other insects which attract the insect eating birds. The fruits are about the size of a pea (about 5 mm in diameter), roundish and clearly divided into three compartments. They appear between December and June. They are fleshy and green, turning red and then purple as they ripen. The fruit is loved by many bird species like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins, so it's a great addition to a bird garden. The wood is white to yellow, often streaked with brown, pink, red or green and is hard and heavy. It is too small to be generally useful, although walkingsticks may be made of it. It is tough and frost resistant and grows well in moist soils. It is evergreen and is good for small gardens and hedges, especially in cold areas. It is widely used as a protective charm to ward off lightning and evil influences from homes and crops and to bring luck in hunting. It is also used medicinally to cleanse the blood, to treat pneumonia, rheumatism, sprains, skin complaints, respiratory infections, stomach ache, and as a gargle. It has non aggressive roots and will grow well in containers. Plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Celtic ram, and later the Greek rhamnos= tuft of branches.

Rhoicissus tridentata

(Bushman's Grape)

A strong, branched climber with decorative, serrated, grass green leaves can be trained into a large shrub. The yellow/green flowers open in summer and attract sunbirds. They are followed by fleshy, red back fruits which are loved by birds and people. These are used medicinally in childbirth, for fertility, colds, stomach, kidney and bladder aliments. It is made into jam, jelly and vinegar It is ideal for pergolas or as a groundcover for large shady areas, a worthy indoor foliage pot plant if kept in trim. Water it regularly. It attracts birds and butterflies and is browsed by game and black rhino. The tubers are eaten by bushpigs, porcupine and baboon although they are said to be poisonous. The name is derived fro the Greek rhoia, = pomegranate; kissos=ivy. Most plants in this genus climb and have tendrils, but the reference to pomegranate is obscure.

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.

Rothmannia globosa

(September Bells)

This little know or utilized tree has been grown in Europe for more than a century. This slender tree, usually 4-7 m in height, can reach 12 m, depending on the climatic conditions. The bark is brown or dark grey, smooth when young, but rougher in old age and marked in rectangular segments. The shiny, simple leaves are oval or lanceolate with a paler underside which displays the yellow or reddish midrib and veins. Trees are usually evergreen, but may be briefly deciduous. The scented, bell-shaped flowers are creamy white, usually with pink speckles in the throat. The flowers are almost stalkless and appear from August to November. The trees are often in full bloom in September hence the common name. The fruits are round green when young but turn brown as they ripen from January onwards. The powdered roots are rubbed into incisions in some parts of southern Africa to treat leprosy. It is fairly fast growing and tolerates some frost but protect young trees in winter. It makes a beautiful small tree for townhouse gardens and as it has non aggressive roots, it is suitable for containers. Monkeys, baboons, nyala and birds eat the fruit and it also attracts bees and butterflies.

Scutia myrtina

(Cat-Thorn)

This small evergreen tree/shrub/creeper is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, semi-shade or deep shade. The yellow flowers occur in summer, and then become fruit which attracts fruit eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Forest-king Emperor and the Rufous - winged Elfin butterflies. it's most important use is as a security barrier. The Cat Thorn has hooked thorns which make it an effective barrier. The leaves are used medicinally and it is browsed by game. The name is derived from the Latin scutum=a shield. this refers to the calyx that surrounds the fruit like a shield.

Searsia leptodictya ( Rhus leptodictya )

(Mountain Karee)

Searsia leptodictya is a small evergreen tree which is frost resistant and drought resistant. It grows in the full sun and has yellow flowers in summer. It attracts birds such as the bulbuls and barbets and guinea fowl and francolins eat the fallen fruit. It also attracts butterflies and mammals as it is eaten by stock and game like giraffe, eland, kudu, impala, steenbok and grey duiker. They are useful for hedging/screening. As it has non-aggressive roots it is used as a street tree or a shade tree in a small garden. The sour fruit is edible and is used to make a strong beer. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pond. It has medicinal uses. 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.

Rhus pentheri ( Rhus pentheri )

(Crowberry)

An evergreen small sized tree. It is frost resistant, drought resistant, and grows in full sun. The yellow/green flowers open in Summer and they attract birds. It has non-aggressive roots. It is a useful tree on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by black rhino, impala, nyala and kudu. Monkeys eat the roots. The edible fruit is enjoyed by birds and people. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves.

Searsia pyroides (Rhus pyroides)

(Fire Thorn)

This is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized, multistemmed tree, frequently with spines. The bark is rough and grey. The leaves are compound, composed of three leaflets (tri-foliate). The leaves are borne on slender stalks, which are furrowed above. The leaflets are oval, narrowing at both ends, sometimes with a short tip. They are smooth or velvety above, the lower surface is usually slightly hairy. The fruits ripen in summer to late autumn and in such quantities that the branches bend with the weight. The fruits are round and small, white and red when ripe. The wood is used to make hoe handles. The branches are used to build kraals. The roots are used in traditional medicine.The fruit is edible, with a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. It is a hardy, frost-resistant plant and is well suited to Highveld gardens. 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.

Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor

Tabernaemontanum elegans

(Toad Tree)

This small shrub/tree is deciduous to evergreen depending on the climate and frost. The trunk is usually single, upright, with a rounded crown. The foliage is glossy dark green and in autumn the leaves change to bright yellow. The white, fragrant flowers clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring to autumn. The fruit, which resembles a toad, are eaten by monkeys, baboons, rhino. birds and people. The orange fruit pulp is considered to be edible and is also used to curdle milk, whereas the roots are used for chest problems. The latex has been used to stop bleeding and is also reported to be useful as bird lime. It attract birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by game and the bark protects the tree from fire. Named for Jakob Theodor von Bergzaben (1522-1590) also known as 'Tabernaemontanus' a German physician, pharmacist and botanist. He developed a passion for herbs and then studied medicine. He was known for his life's work, an illustrated book on medicinal herbs published in 1588. Throughout his life he tried to find a cure for the plague, typhus. The meaning of 'elegans' is elegant.

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