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Dracaena aletriformis

(Large-Leaved Dragon Tree)

This small evergreen tree will thrive in shade. It produces masses of orangy/yellow/white flowers in spring which are sweetly scented at night and attract nocturnal insects like the Hawk Moth which is the pollinator. They are followed by orange fruit which attract birds - insect eaters and fruit eaters like pigeons, louries and black-eyed bulbuls. It also attracts butterflies which feed on the leaves The Bush Nightfighter butterfly larvae wraps a part of the leaf over itself and comes out at night to feed on the leaves. Field mice and birds, like the Natal Robin nest in the leaves. It is a stunning, dramatic foliage plant which can be grown indoors if there is enough air flow or in a pot on a shady patio as it has non aggressive roots. It is frost tender so choose a protected spot close to the house where the building will provide protection. The name is derived from the Greek drakaina=a female dragon.

Duvernoia now called Justicia aconitifolia

(Lemon Pistol Bush)

This small evergreen tree is frost resistant and drought resistant. It prefers a shade or semi-shady spot. The lemon yellow flowers are small and occur in Autumn-Summer. This shrubby tree attracts nesting birds and butterflies. It is wonderful for hedging/screening. Named for Johan Georg Duvernoy (1692-1759) a German botanist and surgeon.

Galpinia transvaalica

(Transvaal Privet)

An evergreen tree that grows to 6 m in height and is multi-stemmed. The stems are often crooked and the branches lie low. The bark is smooth and pale when young, but it has a rough appearance and cracks into blocks when the tree is older. The flowers are white and are borne in dense sprays at the end of the branches in summer. They attract insects, which then attract the insect eating birds. The fruit is a small, round capsule and is 3-4 mm wide. It forms compact clusters that are reddish brown to black and is covered with a hard rind, which splits open to release winged seeds. Fruit appears from April to July. It has non aggressive roots so it can be planted 2 meters from a wall or building. It is also an ideal plant for hedging/screening. It is suitable for game farms as it is browsed by antelope, giraffe and elephant. It is sensitive to frost. Suitable as a hedge, for containers and bonsai. It attracts birds and butterflies

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'.

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'.

Ochna serrulata

(Mickey Mouse Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and thrives in sun or semi-shade. The young spring foliage is a beautiful pinkish-bronze, maturing to glossy green. This beautiful shrub is covered with fragrant, beautiful yellow flowers that fade to red and are followed by black seeds which look like Mickey Mouse’s face. They attract fruit eating birds. It has spread all over the world and is invasive in Hawaii and Australia. It is frost hardy but slow growing. It’s useful for informal hedging/screening as well as bonsai specimens. It is medicinal as it is used to treat infections and magical as is used as an antidote to evil spirits. It has been grown in England since 1820. It is the larval host plant of the Karkloof Emperor and the Marieps Emperor butterflies. the name is derived from the Greek Ochne = wild pear; referring to the leaves that resemble those of the pear tree.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm)

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. 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.

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 myrtifolia

(September Bush)

This attractive, small, evergreen shrub is able to adapt to most gardens as it is drought and frost resistant. A tough shrub suitable for coastal gardens, fynbos gardens, low maintenance and water-wise gardens. In a new garden it is excellent as a fast growing windbreak or a formal hedge.It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Its growth is a bit more lax, producing fewer flowers in the shade, but it grows happily in the difficult pockets that change from full sun to semi-shade with the seasons. It blooms throughout the year with a peak in spring ( August to October) when the plants flower profusely. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees.The fruit is a small, winged capsule which is enjoyed by doves. It is good for containers as its roots are non aggressive and it attracts butterflies like the Pea Blue..It is medicinal as the leaves are made into a poultice to treat gout.

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.

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.

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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