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Lobelia flaccida

(Wild Lobellia)

This evergreen groundcover grows about to about 30cm and it is a very fast grower. It an ideal plant for a wetland and should be planted in a semi-shade. The lovely, attractive blue flowers open in summer. It also makes an excellent edging in flowerbeds or can be grown in containers and hanging baskets. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Melianthus major

(Giant Honey Flower)

This evergreen shrub grows to about 2.5m high and 3.5 wide. It is an easy garden plant and is grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. It grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth. The name comes from 2 Greek words meaning honey flower.The flowers produce nectar which attracts bees, wasps, sunbirds and the Arrowhead butterflies. It is also the host plant for 1 moth specie. Cut it back after flowering to encourage new growth. Although the leaves are toxic they are used medicinally as a topical aid for pain, aches, rheumatism and backache. A gargle is used for sore throats and the liquid is used on snakebites. Warmed leaves can be bound over boils and abscesses to bring them to a head. Four leaves boiled in a big pot of water is used to treat sores and ulcers. A mixture of Meliathus , Artemesia, Khaki Bos and Leonotis leaves are brewed in boiling water and once cooled it is used to control aphids and fruit fly. An ideal plant for small garden. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

Mentha longifolia

(Wild Spearmint)

An evergreen, fast-growing, perennial herb that creeps along the ground and spreads rapidly. It can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions, but is usually between 0.5-1 m high and even shorter in dry conditions. The small flowers of Mentha longifolia are crowded into spikes at the tip of the stems. This wild mint flowers throughout the summer and the flowers are white and mauve. They are heavy feeders and water lovers. Mint grows in semi-shade and full sun. They do well in pots where they are contained. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, cystitis, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Wild mint leaves have been used topically to treat wounds and swollen glands. Some farmers make a bath of mint "tea" to wash their dogs to rid them of fleas. It can be used in the kitchen as a substitute for the exotic mints. I make a glass jug of cold mint tea which is refreshing on hot summer days. It is the larval host plant of the Bush Bronze and the Tsomo Blue butterflies.Mentha is the Latin name for mint from the nymph Minthie, mistress of Pluto, daughter of Cocytus, who was turned into mint by the jealous Proserpine.

Nerine filifolia

(Grass-Leaved Nerine)

This fast-growing, evergreen bulb grows about 25cm x 15cm and it multiplies rapidly. It grows well in a wide variety of soils but does very well in a wet land area. Plant them where they will be exposed to full sun for most of the day. This will encourage the production of strong, straight, upright flowering stalks. They can be mass planted as a border to a flower bed or along a garden path. They are also suitable for growing in containers in a sunny position, but ensure good drainage. They will survive with little water, but for a brilliant pink colour display in the middle of summer, it is better to water them regularly. This floriferous summer-growing plant produces delicate, bright pink flowers which bring a magnificent colourful display at the end of summer when not much else is flowering. If watered during the winter months, they will retain their leaves; otherwise the leaves will die off but will re-sprout the following spring. It can be cultivated for cut-flowers, as the flowers have a long-lasting vase life and are well worth using in flower arrangements. It is a very lovely bulb to have in the garden and it attracts butterflies. Filifolia refers to the thin, fine leaves.

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'.

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.

Phragmites australis

(Common Reed)

This evergreen reed grows to about 3 meters tall and is found in wetlands and dams. It is frost resistant and has a multitude of uses. Flowers are produced from December to June. It plays very important role in protecting the soil from erosion, filters water and offers shelter to many bird species and other animals. It is even used to make paper, baskets and is used in the chemical industry. They are tied together and used to make walls for houses. The rhizomes are edible and the hollow stems are used for pipes and musical instruments. The seeds are used to make ointment for burns. Weavers use these to build their nests on. The Bushmen of the Kalahari make their arrow shafts from this plant. The name is derived from the Greek phragmites =growing in hedges, from phragma = a fence, hedge, from phrassein = to enclose.

Phygelius aequalis

(River Bells)

A fast growing water-loving plant with oval soft textured leaves. This herbaceous shrub grows to 2m. It will thrive when planted in rich,loamy soil with plenty of compost and it requires lot of watering in summer. If there is frost damage the plant it will recover well in spring. It also makes lovely yellow drooping tubular flowers. It is traditionally used as a charm to ward off hail damage to crops.Its looks beautiful planted next to the pond and it attract butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

Phygelius capensis

(Cape Fuchsia)

A semi-evergreen shrub growing to 120 x 150 cm wide. The oval leaves are up to 9 cm .Throughout summer it produces tubular flowers which are orange-pink colour along the outside of the petals, with a yellow center. The flowers often point back towards the stem. They also surround the stem, unlike P. aequalis where the flowers appear all on one side of the stem. The plant has an exceptionally long blooming season of roughly six months, from May to November. The plant grows well in most fertile soils but may require some winter protection in colder areas. It requires full sunlight and thus is generally only an outdoor plant. It is medically used to inebriate boys during initiation ceremonies and is therefore considered to have ritual qualities. form borders. Phygelius capensis makes the ideal border plant because of its long blooming season. It attracts sun birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek phugo = to shun; elios= the sun. These plants prefer shade , not sunlight.

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.

Pteris dentata

(Toothed Brake)

A very attractive fern which forms a clump of bright green fronds that are finely dissected and lacy. It is an evergreen groundcover that grows about 1m x 1m and it is a very fast growing. It is suitable for a moist wetland garden and it thrives in shade or semi-shade. An ideal plant for containers provided they are in the shade and kept well watered. The name is derived fro the Greek pteris=fern, from pteron = wing, feather; referring to the shape of the pinnae: the symmetrical fronds resemble wings.

Pteris vittata

(Banded Fern)

This fast growing and attractive fern has fairy broad leathery fronds that are up to a meter long. It is a beautiful fern which likes to be planted in light shade under trees or anywhere in the garden where it get a little bit of sun. It requires lot of watering especial in hot ,dry weather and its half hardy to frost. The name is derived fro the Greek pteris=fern, from pteron = wing, feather; referring to the shape of the pinnae: the symmetrical fronds resemble wings.

Rumohra adiantiformis

(Knysna Fern)

The glossy, light green, leathery fronds of the Knysna fern are coarsely toothed and roughly triangular in shape. The attractive foliage lasts well in a vase and is often used in flower arrangements. It is also exported for this purpose. This striking and beautiful fern is perfect for that shady spot in the water garden, near a water feature or a stream. It an ideal plant for a container on a patio but do water it regularly if not planted in a wetland garden in order to have a happy fern. Named for Karl, Fredrich Felix von Rumohr (1785-1843) a German art historian, art expert, collector of antiquities, poet and author. Towards the end of his life, he devoted his time to agriculture and cooking.

Schoenoplectis corymbosis

(Sedge)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 1m high. It is a frost resistant and it requires full sun. It produces brownish flowers in summer. It is an ideal plant for wetlands gardens and retailing soil. It is used for weaving sleeping mats. Named from the Greek schoinos= a rush or a reed and the Greek plektos = twisted, a plaited or twisted rush.

Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

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