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Aloe ferox

(Bitter Aloe, Bitteraalwyn)

This evergreen aloe is happy in the sun. It occurs from the Cape, Kwazulu Natal, Free State and Lesotho. It was first utilised and painted on rocks by the Khoi. The beautiful orange-red flowers occur in winter and attract birds and butterflies and children who suck the nectar which is said to be narcotic. It is single-stemmed, grows to 3 meters and is quite dramatic in flower. This Aloe was first introduced to Europe in 1700. It is medicinal and the healing sap is exported for the medicine trade. The dried sap has been exported since 1760 It is used as a laxative and to treat arthritis, rheumatism, hypertension and stress. It is also used in hair and skin cream products. It is often used as a skin lightening gel. It is rich in amino acids and minerals. Don't use this medicine during pregnancy. The leaf sap is used to treat burns. The chopped leaves and a bucket of wild rosemary and khaki bos are left over night to steep in boiling water and this water is used to bath dogs as a tick repellent. The leaves are browsed while the flowers are enjoyed by monkeys and baboon. They are also made into a delicious jam which is similar to watermelon jam. It is used in a rockery but is very slow growing. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

Barleria obtusa

(Bush Violet)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The pale mauve trumpet shaped flowers occur in summer and autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterfly. It is great for containers and it’s a low maintenance plant, other than an annual pruning at the end of winter. It is ideal for small gardens, but needs to be kept as a bush as I’ve seen ours scampering up the trees when left to their own devises!

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.

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

(Bush Tick Berry)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The leaves are browsed by game like the blue duiker and other antelope. The yellow flowers open in autumn and attract insect and fruit eating birds. It is the larval host to several moth and butterfly species like the Beaufort, Mooi River, Natal, Water and Common Opals and the delightfully named Jitterbug Daisy Copper. It is useful for informal hedging, screening and windbreaks. Withstands salt laden winds at the coast so is perfect to stabilize the dunes and to plant in a coastal garden.The fruits have a juicy, nutty flavour and are eaten by children, monkeys and birds and the juice of the fruit is used medicinally to strengthen the blood, for impotence, intestinal ailments, pimples and to treat fevers. The fruit is also added to porridge to give strength. The berries can be made into a jam or a cordial. The leaves are used as an enema for fevers. Leaves are considered to be toxic to stock. The leaves were also burnt and the ash was used to make soap. The ash is also added to water and left to steep over night, this is then splashed onto mildew, daily for 4 days. It was introduced to Australia where it has spread like wild fire and has now become one of their worst weeds.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Cussonia spicata

(Common Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is fast growing in the sun. The green/yellow flowers open in Autumn. This decorative tree is a lovely form plant with bright green leaves crowded at the tips of the branches and long bare stems. The fruit are fleshy and purple when ripe and they attract birds and butterflies. Ideal for a small garden but it does have aggressive roots so don’t plant less than 5 meters from a wall or a pool. It requires good drainage and thrives on lots of compost. The Leaves are browsed by elephant and kudu and people eat the roots to obtain moisture. The roots and bark are also eaten by black rhino, baboon and bushpigs. It is frost tender in cold gardens. An infusion of the root is used medicinally for malaria, stomach complaints and V D. The roots are also chewed for virility and strength. They taste similar to sugar cane. The grated bark is used in hot water to make a poultice for cramp and muscle spasm. This solution is also used to bath newborn babies to ensure a strong child and prevent skin rashes and pimples. Some folk believe that it one is planted near the homestead, it will ensure fat, healthy children. Dried flowers are added to snuff. The leaves are used as a fish poison but are palatable to cattle and goats. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

Deinbollia oblongifolia

(Dune Soap-Berry)

This small evergreen tree is drought resistant and fast growing in the shade. It produces white/cream flowers in Autumn which attract insects and insect eating birds. The round yellow fruit is eaten by people, monkeys and birds. It is the larval host to many butterfly species like the Emperors, Playboys, Foresters and Hairstreaks. It’s useful for containers or bonsai as it has non-aggressive roots. It is an attractive garden plant which can also be used indoors. Traditionally the seeds are used to make soap, the leaves are eaten as spinach and browsed by game and the roots used medicinally for gastric complaints. Named for Peter Vogelius Deinboll 1783-1874, a Danish entomologist, clergyman, Parliamentarian and collector. His insect collection is the oldest in the Natural History Museum in Oslo.

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 burgessae

(Pink Wild Pear)

This decidous shrub or small tree grows to a height of 4m and it is a very fast growing. The leaves of this tree are large, velvety, soft and lobed reminiscent of grape leaves. It tolerates both light frost and periods of drought. The pink flowers open in Autumn and make a lovely show. I saw it planted on a wire support above a patio, so all the pink flowers made a pink ‘roof’ and it was quite spectacular. The bark and leaves are eaten by Black Rhino. The bark is used for fibre. This is the larval host plant for the Ragged Skipper and the Buff-tipped Skipper butterflies and moths. Named for Joseph Dombey 1742-1794, a French naturalist, physician, botanist and traveller. His research into the cinchona plant which produces quinine. 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 he died in jail.

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.

Dovyalis caffra

(Kei Apple)

This small 5m evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The cream flowers are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies, and are produced in spring and are followed by apricot fruit which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like the Louries and black eyed Blackeyed Bulbuls. It should produce fruit when about 3 years old.It makes a safe nesting site. It is useful for an informal hedge/screen or a thorny security barrier as they retain their lower branches and can be planted close together as they do not have aggressive roots. The fruit is also useful as it is rich in vitamin C and although sour it is tasty and is eaten raw or used for jelly and jam making. It is eaten by Monkeys and Baboon. The trees are also browsed by game. The Kei Apple will do well in a container and is popular for bonsai. The branches are also used in flower arrangements.The oval leaves are shiny, dark green with a smooth margin. It is successful if planted in a coastal garden or in a Highveld garden. This tree was first grown in Europe in 1870 but is now grown worldwide, in California, the Mediterranean and Australia. Plant it 2 meters from buildings and pools. The name is derived from the Greek dovyalis = spear refering to the long thorns.

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.

Eragrostis curvula

(Weeping Love Grass)

A robust densely tufted grass that grows to 1,2m high. It produces many long loose hanging leaves, hence the name ‘curvula’. it flowers from August to June. It grows in disturbed places such as old cultivated lands, roadsides, and in well drained fertile soil. It is one of the best grass with which to stabilize expose soil. The seed is used to make bread and to brew beer. The name is derived from Greek eros=love and agrostis=grass, referring to the graceful heart-shaped spikelets.

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.

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