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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.

Afrocanthium gilfillanii (was Canthium mundianum)

(Rock Alder)

An evergreen, small, sparsely branched tree with berries which attract birds, especially Loeries. The leaves are dark green and slightly hairy. Fragrant greenish flowers open in spring. It is excellent for small gardens especially where filtered light is desired. Prune out lower branches to form a tree. It is very adaptable and drought resistant, however it thrives if fed and watered regularly. The wood is used for fencing posts and tools. From the Malabar name canti for a specie of this genus 'Turkey- Berry" trees.

Agapanthus inapertus

(Drooping Agapanthus)

This is a deciduous groundcover, (1m -1.2m), which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The blue or purple flowers open in summer and they attract birds and butterflies. It occurs naturally in very cold grasslands and makes a good garden subject. One must just interplant it with evergreen groundcovers so that there is not a gap in your garden bed during the winter. The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Inapertus means 'not open' and refers to the flowers.

Agapanthus nana

(Miniature Blue||White Agapanthus)

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 25cm high and 35cm wide with grass-like leaves and sky blue or white flowers. It flowers in profusion in summer. It is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing. It thrives in the sun, shade and semi-shade. It is also an ideal plant for container. It attracts birds and butterflies. If it is mass planted it is impressive sight. It is also suitable for townhouse gardens. Use them in mixed borders, within flowerbeds or along pathways. The word 'nana' means dwarf or small.

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. It is frost hardy, drought resistant and looks spectacular when mass planted. It was first described in 1679 in Europe and first planted there in 1692 where it is now a popular hothouse plant. There the common name is "African Hyacinth". Linnaeus called it an "African Lily". The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Praecox means 'early' which refers to it's early flowering. Pregnant women wear pieces of the root made into necklace to ensure a healthy baby and ensure fertility. They also take a decoction of the root to ensure an easy birth and the newborn is washed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are used are bandages. The Zulu use it to treat heart diseases, paralysis and flu. They also wrap the leaves around their tired feet. It is also magical as it is used as a sprinkling charm against lightening. It’s a most useful plant which is undemanding and will grow in sun or shade and is water wise. It is also useful to stabilize a bank. The flowers are long lasting in a vase and they dry well for pot-pourri as they retain their colour. Large clumps can be divided after flowering. When replanted the leaves should be cut back.

Albuca nelsonii

(Nelson’s Slime Lily)

Albuca nelsonii is an evergreen, bulbous perennial, which grows in clumps and is 60 to 120cm high when in flower. The leaves are strap shaped and rather sappy. Its flowers are white with green stripes. They are produced from September to November. The leaves are attractive all year. This bulb needs very little water so are useful for a waterwise, drought resistant garden. They thrive equally well in sun or full shade. The flowers are ideal for the vase. The name is derived from the Latin 'albus' and refers to the white flowers.

Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Aloe now Aristaloe aristata

(Serelei, Long-awned Aloe)

The common name which means ‘the slippery one’ whereas aristata means ’awned’ which refers to the awn- like leaf tips. It is very frost hardy as it occurs in the coldest parts of the country, the mountains of Lesotho and the Karoo where there is often snow. The leaves have numerous white spots and it is often confused with Haworthia. It’s a little, low growing Aloe which would look great with succulents in a rockery. It's height is only 15 cm whereas the flower spike is 50cm tall. In full fun they are a deep red whereas in the shade they are a pale pink. The orange red flowers open in November, December. The wild populations are being depleted as it is a muthi plant. They are either planted on the roof of the homestead or the leaf is crushed in water which is sprinkled around the house for security and preventing strange men from visiting the house when the husband is away. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Aloe dyeri

(Shade or Dyers Aloe)

This large evergreen groundcover is one of the largest spotted aloes. It is frost resistant, fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. It has red flowers in late summer or autumn which are very striking, especially if mass planted. They attract birds and will be successful if planted in containers. It occurs in Mpumalanga but copes very well with the cold on the Highveld. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Anisodontea classic cerise

(Pink Mallow)

This shrub flowered splendidly during one of our black frosts. It did not flinch, so I consider it top of my list of hardy plants. It is evergreen, very fast growing and fills a big space of at least 1m x 1m x 1m. Such an economical plant! It flowers all year and copes well in a drought. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and watch as it attracts butterflies and birds. The name originates from the Latin 'aniso'=unequal and 'odontos'=toothed which refers to the irregularly toothed leaves.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

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.

Asparagus densiflorus mazeppa

(Foxtail Fern)

An evergreen small, semi-woody plant with fern-like shoots, native to coastal dunes, rocky outcrops or woodlands from the south eastern Cape to southern Mozambique. The cultivar Mazeppa forms broad, arching shoots with fine, needle-like foliage and a conifer-like appearance. The tiny, white flowers are followed by attractive, bright red berries. It adapts well to a wide variety of situations in warm, temperate or tropical climates. It makes a perfect, low maintenance and drought tolerant ground cover for full sun or shade. It also makes an excellent house plant. It’s an ideal plant for container or hanging baskets. It attracts birds. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus densiflorus-sprengerii

(Basket Asparagus)

An evergreen groundcover, which is water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in spring and they attract butterflies. The flowers are followed by red berry that attracts fruit eating birds. They are useful for containers and hanging baskets. The bright green, glistening foliage is attractive and is ideal for small gardens and is used in flower arranging. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

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