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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.

Plectranthus purpuratus

(Vicks Plant)

This very fast growing groundcover grows to 40cm high and 40cm wild. It thrives in shade or semi-shade. It has fuzzy, crinkled leaves with purple veins. The leaves are aromatic hence the common name of Vicks Plant. It produces tiny little white or purple flowers. It is an ideal plant for a hanging basket on a patio or in a container under trees. It has a lovely drooping habit as it scampers over the edge of containers. This is the larval host plant for Bush Bronze, Mocker Blue, Eyed Pansy, the March Commodor and the African Leaf Commodor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek plektron = a spur; anthos= a flower. These plants have conspicuously spurred flowers.

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

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.

Stapelia gigantea

(Carrion Flower)

A low, perennial succulent. The stems are almost always erect and are uniformly green to reddish, depending on the extent of exposure to the sun. The flower is white or pinkish, star shaped and opens in summer. The common name refers to the smell which attracts flies. This is a succulent so it only requires moderately watering. Plant it in semi shade near rocks for interest. It is a medicinal plant as stem infusions are used to treat hysteria. Ash from a burnt plant is rubbed into scarification's on the body for pain relief. It is also used in sorcery and as a protective charm. It is the host plant for the African monarch butterfly. Named for Johannes van Stapel ( 1602-1636) a Dutch physician and botanist. He received a medical degree from Leiden University in 1625 and then studied botany. His life's ambition was to publish a botanical work but he died before this was completed. His father went on to complete the work for him.One of the plants in his book is the Stapelia variegata, named by Linnaeus in 1753 which Johannes saw in the Cape in 1624. It has now been renamed Orbea variegata. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Tarchonanthus camphoratus

(Camphor Bush)

Tarchonanthus camphorates is a small evergreen tree which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. It is extremely tough and will withstand coastal, salty wind. The cream flowers occur in autumn and they attract butterflies. They are followed by attractive, strongly scented fruit which is a small seed covered by woolly white hairs which look rather like cotton wool balls. Birds use these for lining their nests. It is a fodder tree utilized by giraffe, black wildebeest, grey duiker, eland, kudu, sable antelope, nyala, impala and springbok. It’s also useful for hedging/screening, windbreak, soil erosion or as a bonsai. Do bear in mind that it has aggressive roots. The wood is termite proof and is used for musical instruments, fencing posts, fuel, boat building, basket struts and grain storage containers. The wood retains its camphor fragrance for a long time and is used as an insect repellent for clothing and foodstuff. It has medicinal properties as the leaves are made into a tea for asthma, anxiety, stomach aches and heartburn. Smoke from fresh or dried leaves is used to treat a headache and blocked sinuses. It is also used for toothache, a tonic for respiratory ailments and women use the fresh leaves to perfume their hair. The dried leaves are said to have a slightly narcotic effect when smoked. In days gone by the seeds were used to stuff pillows! Seeds, leaves and twigs are burnt to fumigate huts. This smoke is said to be good for sleeplessness, headaches and rheumatism. Crushed leaves are put into Vaseline to rub onto sore feet and for anointing the body during religious festivals. Leaves are also stuffed into hats to protect one from the mid day sun.This tough tree can withstand severe frost, drought and sea breezes. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pond. The name is derived from the Greek tarchos=funeral rite; anthos = flower; presumably from the camphorous odour of the leaves as used in incense sticks in places of worship.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . Powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to heal bleeding gums. The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

Vepris lanceolata

(White Ironwood)

This medium sized, evergreen tree grows to 6m high in open woodland but in deep forests it becomes a tall graceful tree with a gently rounded crown of shiny light green foliage. The whitish grey bark is smooth and the tiny yellowish flowers appear in sprays from December to March. The leaves and fruit are dotted with oil glands that release a citrus smell when crushed. The small, black fruits are favoured by birds. It tolerates only light frost and is fairly drought resistant once established. It makes a good screen. It grows very well in sandy soil. It is ideal for small gardens as it has non aggressive roots. can also be planted in containers for indoors and patios. Also great for bird gardens as the fruit attract the fruit eaters, like louries, pigeons, doves, starlings, barbets and black-eye bulbuls and the flowers attract insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is the larval host plant to the Citrus, Constantine's Green-banded, Mocker and White-banded butterflies. The roots are powdered and used as a remedy for influenza. The white wood is hard and elastic and is used for implement handles and roof rafters which can last up to 200 years. Plant it 3 meters from a building or pool. The name is derived from the Latin vepres = a bramble or thorny shrub. This does not apply to our South African Vepris. Lanceolata refers to the lance shaped leaves.

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