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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.

Grewia robusta

(Karoo Cross-Berry)

This is a deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree up to 3 m high. The flowers are small, bright pink and sweetly scented. They are solitary, up to 25 mm in diameter with stamens in a central mass.The flowering time is August–December. The fruits are round and reddish brown. It grows best in moist clay or light sand, in semi-shade and open areas. Best results are achieved by feeding the plant with organic fertilizer before flowering. It is frost and drought tolerant. It produces masses of sweetly scented and attractive pink flowers in summer. This Grewia is an excellent focal garden plant. It attract mammals and is suitable for a game farm. 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.

Halleria lucida

(Tree Fuchsia)

This small, evergreen tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant, fast growing in sun or semi-shade. The word lucida means bright and it refers to the shiny, bright leaves. In summer the orange flowers attract bees and birds - insect, fruit and nectar eaters and it is used for nesting sites so it’s a great choice for a bird garden. The berries attract pigeons, louries, parrots, thrush, bulbuls, robins and white-eyes. The flowers are full of nectar and this gives rise to the Xhosa name that means 'free food'. or 'birds beer'. This attracts sunbirds, white eyes and even weavers. It also attracts butterflies. It is useful for formal pruned hedging or informal hedging/screening. It has a lovely drooping habit. It is medicinal as the leaves are soaked in water which is then dripped into the ears for earache. It is also magical and is used as a charm against evil, lightening and bad weather. This is done by burning the trees and using the ash mixed with fat to rub onto sticks cut from Rhamnus prinoides. These are driven into the soil. Twigs are burnt when offering sacrifices to the ancestors. On a river walk in the Cape I struggled to identify the Halleria and it was only when I saw the black fruit did I realize what it was. I have never seen them that tall in Gauteng. It is useful on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by eland, kudu, nyala, bushbuck and grey duiker. The wood is hard and is used for spear shafts and to start a fire.The roots are non aggressive so you can plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool.

Heteropyxis natalensis

(Lavender Tree)

This small, evergreen tree is water wise and is happy in the sun or semi shade. In summer the white/creamy flowers attract bees, wasps, butterflies and insects which attract the insect eating birds. It is also a useful tree for nesting. This tree is suitable for containers and bonsai as it has non aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. It is used medicinally as an antibacterial and the bark is considered to be an aphrodisiac.The leaves and roots of this plant are used medicinally to treat worms in stock and tick infestions, for toothache, mouth and gum infections. African healers prescribe inhaling the steam from a decoction of the roots to heal a bleeding nose and clear a blocked nose. The roots are also used in the treatment of mental disorders and fresh leaves are used during weaning, to make a herbal tea and for potpourri . A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat heartburn, colic, colds and flatulence. This tea is said to be strengthening and is given to the elderly, travellers and new mothers. The leaves are also used to scent tobacco as they smell like lavender as well as being browsed by antelope. Leaves and twigs are boiled in water to make a fragrant wash. Crushed leaves are added to mutton fat which then treats cracked heels and tired feet. The leaves are put into the bath for a fragrant and invigorating bath and are used in Potpourri. The bark and the leaves are eaten by black rhino. It is a very decorative tree for small gardens. With its glossy green leaves and a whitish stem, it makes a very good focal point. Plant this tree in a prominent spot where you can enjoy its lovely autumn foliage. The small fruit ripens in autumn and winter. The name is derived from the Greek heteros = different : pyxis = a jar with a lid , referring to the fruit capsule which looks like it has a lid on it.

Kraussia floribunda

(Kraussia)

This is a pleasing garden shrub with faintly scented, attractive clusters of pretty white flowers in midsummer. These are followed in winter by black berries. The growth habit is usually upright and can be either single or multi-stemmed at a height of 2- 4 m. Its stem is smooth and a grayish brown. This attractive shrub will grow happily in semi shade or full sun. It is suitable for a pot or container on a patio. It makes a lovely show of flowers, berries and glossy green leaves but will also look good used in a screen or informal garden bed. The flowers are attractive to many insect pollinators and the edible fruit has a sweet taste and is enjoyed by humans monkeys and baboons. This could explain the widespread distribution of this species from dispersal by small mammals, birds and monkeys. A very good choice for a wildlife garden or on a game farm as the leaves are eaten by Black Rhino and game. Named for Christian Ferdinand Friedrich von Krauss (1812-90) He had a phD in mineralogy, zoology and chemistry. He sailed to the Cape where he collected molluscs crustaceans, flora and fauna. He explored the area between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and later Pietermaritzburg. He then joined the Natural History museum in Stuttgart where he was the director. Floribunda means 'with an abundance of flowers'.

Melinus repens

(Natal Red Top)

A perennial tufted grass with attractive, hairy inflorescences. Spikelets are covered with long velvety, red, pink to white hairs. It flowers from September to June. It grows in sunny, dry places, in all type of soil but prefers a well-drained soil. It is very pretty when in flower. The birds use the seed heads as nesting material. Named from the Greek meline - name for grain (millet) Melinis is Greek for quince-yellow. The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

Mundulea sericea

(Cork Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, happy in the sun and produces mauve/purple flowers in summer. It occurs in northern Namibia, , Botswana, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. It attracts birds - insect eaters, nectar eaters and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland and impala. It has several uses as the twigs are used as toothbrushes, the bark is used as an insecticide and fish poison and the leaves are used to bleach hair. It is also used medicinally as the bark is used as an emetic to treat poisoning and the roots are used for fertility. It is an ideal tree for small gardens, particularly as the beautiful bark has a cork-like appearance, hence the common name. It will do well in pots if they are well drained and is lovely as a bonsai. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool. This is the larval host plant for 2 moth species as well as the Natal Bar, Common Blue and the Dusky Blue butterflies.

Nuxia floribunda

(Forest Elder)

This small to medium-sized evergreen tree is usually 3 m to 10 m tall. The main stem is often somewhat contorted and up to 600 mm in diameter. The fissured bark is rough and flaking and is grey to brown in colour. A lovely dense and rounded crown is often evident, contributing greatly to the visual appeal of the species. The leaves are browsed by kudu, bushbuck, nyala, klipspringer and duiker. The sweetly scented, cream-white flowers are small and they attract insects which attract the insect eating birds. They are rich in nectar which makes them idea for honey farmers. It flowers from autumn to spring. It is an attractive, moisture-loving tree that is frost sensitive. It likes a sunny to partly-shady position in the garden. Its root system is not aggressive or invasive, allowing for planting in close proximity, 3 meters, to roads, buildings and paving. It attracts birds and butterflies. The wood is hard and is used for furniture. Named for Jean Baptiste Francois de la Nux. (1702-1772) a French amateur naturalist. He became chief clerk and later the commander of Saint - Denis, the administrative of Reunion Island where he tried to develop silkworm farming. Floribunda means 'with an abundance of flowers'.

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.

Pavetta gardeniifolia

(Common Brides Bush)

Pavetta gardeniifolia Common Bride's Bush SA Tree No. 716 is a small, deciduous tree, which is drought resistant and has fragrant white flowers in summer. It grows well in the sun and attracts birds and mammals. It is useful for containers as the masses of white flowers in December make it a stunning sight! They have edible fruit, which is eaten by the fruit eating birds and monkeys and the flowers lure a variety of insects, which become food for insect-eating birds like the Southern Boubou. The nectar is also popular with birds. The fleshy fruits entice Crested and Blackcollared Barbets, Blackeyed Bulbuls and Mousebirds. People also eat the fruits.Useful in an informal mixed border and is ideal for a small garden.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm, Wildedadelboom)

This small evergreen tree is relatively frost resistant and grows in the sun or semi-shade along river banks where it stabilizes the embankment. Yellow flowers in summer are replaced by orange seed which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters. Plant it near a water feature as an accent plant. It can also be used for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. This tree is protected in South Africa. The large leaves are woven to make baskets and mats and the sap is trapped for wine and beer making. The roots produce an edible gum which children enjoy and they contain tannin. The fibres from the fruit stems are used for brooms and the leaf midribs are used for hut building and to make fish kraal fences. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are nutritious and edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. It is used to make beer and wine. The spines are used in traditional medicine and the tree is used to treat pleurisy.The roots are eaten to aid healers. Birds, monkeys, elephant and baboons eat the ripe fruit. bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. It is the larval host for the Palm-tree Nightfighter Butterfly. The wood is light and of no use. The Caterpillar of the Skipper butterfly feed off the leaves. The Palm Swift bird uses the tree for nesting. Certainly a very useful tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Magically it is a fertility tree and a branch in the house keeps evil away. The name comes from the early Greeks who called a Date Palm a Phoenix. The 'reclinata' comes from the Latin "bend down' or 'bend back' which refers to the arching leaves.

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.

Portulacaria afra prostrata

(Elephants Foot)

Dwarf Elephants Foot is another very versatile plant that grows in full sun to deep shade. It produces lavender coloured flowers in summer. It is water wise and has arching, trailing branches with reddish brown stems. It would be ideal in a pot, to scamper over the edge, a hanging basket or even retaining walls. I saw it flourishing in the baking hot sun in the Kruger Park, in a retailing wall at one of the rest camps in very harsh conditions.

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