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Adiantum capillus-veneris

(Maidenhair Fern)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 30 cm high and 20cm wide. It is suitable for all soils types but prefers a well-drained soil which is moist. It can grow in semi-shade or deep shade. It is an ideal plant for containers and is often used in a bathroom. They don't like to be in a draught. It is medicinal and is used for coughs, colds, pleurisy, bronchitus, catarrh and respiratory ailments and it is believed to be mildly diuretic. In Europe a drink called Capillaire was considered a favourite drink for the ladies of the court. It is made by boiling 3 cups of sugar in 3 cups of water, the juice of 3 lemons and 3 cups of fern fronds. Boil for about 30 minutes until thick. Cool and bottle. It can be taken neat as a cough syrup or diluted. It also makes a good, warm night time toddy if one is tired or cold. Dried leaves are burnt and inhaled for blocked sinus and fresh leaves are stuffed into the shirt for chest problems. The name is derived from the Greek 'diantos' which means incapable of being wetted. The leaves of the Maiden Hair fern shed water and will remain dry even in a rain shower.

Aponogeton distachyos

(Waterblommetjie)

An evergreen, very fast growing water plant that grows to 30cm tall. The flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, flowers with brown anthers and it flowers in summer. The flowers are edible and are the main ingredient in the traditional South African Tomato bredie stew or they can be added to a soup. They can also be chopped raw into a salad of celery and cucumber. It is traditionally made with 1 kg of lamb to 1 kg of flowers. The following is then added: half a kg of potatoes, 2 onions, 1 cup of dry white wine, salt, sugar and pepper. They can also be used in soup or cooked as a vegetable in lemon butter and it tastes rather like asparagus. The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals. Bees are attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators. It grows in shade, semi-shade and even full sun. An ideal plant for water gardens. Medicinal as the stems are used on burns, scrapes and sunburn. The stems are also fed to pigs and goats. The name comes from the Celtic 'apon'=water.

Aristea ecklonii

(Blue Stars)

This evergreen groundcover, is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It has blue flowers in summer that attract birds and butterflies. It is ideal for wetlands and moist places in the garden. Show them off by mass planting for a dramatic effect. It is also medicinal as the leaves are used as an enema for fever, coughing and internal sores. It is also magical being used as a protective charm. Ideal for small gardens or for pots on a patio. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Aristea major

(Tall Aristea)

This evergreen ground cover grows to about 1.5m x 1m in wetland situations, so it is perfect for a pond or dam. It would also be lovely next to a water feature where it will get extra water. The stunning blue flowers open in Summer and make a spectacular display especially if mass planted. There are very few blue flowers compared to other colours in our South African flora. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a handsome, structural plant which is well worth planting. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Berula rotunda was erecta

(Toothache Root)

This perennial aquatic plant grows in shallow, clear flowing water near ditches, ponds, lakes and rivers. It grows to heights of between 30cm and 1m and has white flower heads in summer. The leaflets have toothed edges. The characteristic features are a pale ring at the base of the leaf stalk and a smell of parsnip or carrot when crushed. It is frost hardy and should be planted in sun. As this a water-loving plant, plant it in a wetland garden, near a water feature or dam. The rhizomes are used for toothache.

Centella asiatica

(Pennywort||Waterhearts)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 15cm high and spreads. It produces cream flowers in summer and should be planted in sun, shade or semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for wetlands as it thrives in moist soil and will be suitable for containers where it will scamper over the edge. It is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, skin ailments like oily skin, blemishes, coarse open pores, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins and thread veins, fever, diuretic, purgative, TB, leprosy, syphilis and to aid the memory. It is excellent for treating sunburn and gives aging skin back its elasticity. In Australia one or two leaves is chopped into a salad and eaten daily. This is said to be the right dose to aid the memory as large amounts eaten at a sitting are said to have a narcotic effect however in South Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach. It is the larval host for the Uranus Opal butterfly and one moth specie. A face cream can be made by simmering half a cup of aqueous cream with half a cup of finely chopped leaves in a double boiler for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil. Fill a container and enjoy the benefits. It can also be made into a lotion by boiling 3 liters of water with 3 cups of leaves for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. This can be used for aching legs, varicose veins, swellings, infections and rashes. Cheap as chips and worth a try. It was recorded in the French pharmacopoeia in 1884 and is used in Hindu medicine, Ayurvedic medicine in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is reported to be antibacterial, antifungal, anti-allergic and hypotensive. Laboratory studies have found it to be mildly tranquillising, anti-stress and anti-anxiety.The name comes from the Greek kentron=a spur or sharp point and ella=diminutive referring to the small pointed styles.

Chlorophytum bowkeri

An evergreen groundcover that grows 10 cm. When in flower, the plant produces long, thin stems which carry white flowers. It flowers all year round. It an ideal plant for containers and hanging baskets. Mass plant in the shade or semi shade for a lovely effect. If it does get frosted, it will bounce back in spring. It is also a medicinal plant. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers.

Elegia tectorum (Chondropetalum tectorum)

(Cape Thatching Reed)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It gets a bit “leggie” if there is not enough sun. The dark brown flowers occur in summer. It is useful for wetlands and attractive if planted in a container. It is used for making brooms and for thatching roofs. It is ideal for small gardens but do make sure that you plant it with as little root disturbance as possible. I’ve seen it planted in front of a garden wall and the shadows it casts are quite enchanting.

Cyperus alternifolius

(Sedge)

An evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 1m. The bracts are symmetrically arranged in an umbrella formation and held atop elegant stems that sway with the breeze, giving a tropical feel to the garden. It is a versatile plant ,easily grown and makes an excellent ornamental waterside or marginal plant for water gardens. As an indoor pot plant they are useful for a conservatory, or as interior plant for commercial offices, hotels and malls. Ideally in containers should be stood in water. Its fascinating shape makes it a great plant for landscaping, and as an accent plant or an informal screen. As a background plant, it combines well with other foliage plants or flowering plants in garden beds or borders. It is impossible to over water the ‘Umbrella Plant’ as it enjoys damp and boggy conditions. It can be grown in shallow water of small fish ponds as a water filtration marginal plant. It is excellent for a tropical water garden, a bog garden or wetland. The tall bracts are also excellent when used in fresh or dried floral arrangements. It is similar to Cyprus textiles and it is used to make baskets, twine and mats. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus prolifer

(Dwarf Papyrus)

This is an evergreen water-loving, attractive, medium-sized groundcover that grows to 30cm high and 15cm wide. It has very inconspicuous leaves, represented by red-brown sheaths at the base. It should be planted in full sun. It is an excellent plant for the containers and is ideal for small wetland gardens. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Dietes grandiflora

(Large Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in summer, and they attract birds - insect eaters and butterflies. It is suitable for wetlands and can even be planted in the water. It is clump-forming and is ideal for small gardens. It is believed that when in flower, rain will follow. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Dietes iridioides

This evergreen groundcover has sword-shaped, dark green leaves in a loose fan. This prolific flowerer carries its flowers on a wiry, arching stem. The flowers are white with mauve markings, dainty and new flowers open continually during spring and summer. It is drought-resistant and will thrive in semi-shade as well as full sun, often where little else will grow. It tolerates both wind and frost. There are many medicinal uses as infusions made from the rhizome are taken orally or in enemas to treat dysentery, are used during childbirth, for hypertension and as a tonic for goats. Roots are used for first menstruation. It is also an ideal plant for a wetland garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Falckia repens

(White Carpet)

Very fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 5cm high. It can grow in sun or shade and looks great when squeasing in between rocks or when cascading down over a container. It also is useful between pavers, provided that it gets enough water. The flowers are white or pink and flowering time is from late September to December. An ideal groundcover for wetland gardens. Flat growing, attractive, indigenous alternative to "Daisy Lawn". The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

Hesperantha coccinea (was Schizostylis coccinea)

(Scarlet River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover of 50cm x 20cm loves moist conditions and it looks stunning next to a water features or pond.The beautiful, attractive star shaped scarlet flowers of bright red, pink or white open in summer and attract buterflies. It is frost hardy and it also require lots of water as it likes to be in a wetland area. It is also good for containers. I once saw these in full flower in the marshy area on the bank of a river in Wakkerstroom, which proves how frost hardy they are.

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