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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.

Crinum bulbispermum

(Orange River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The stunning pink flowers are sweetly scented and are a show stopper in spring. They attract much admiration, as well as butterflies. This is a Highveld wetland plant so it would do well in a damp spot. It is the provincial flower of the Free State. It is magical as it is planted to protect the home from evil. It is used medicinally to ensure an easy delivery and to stimulate breast milk. It is also used to treat colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, reduce swelling, blood cleansing, kidney and bladder problems, sores, boils, acne and as a poultice for septic sores. Juice from the leaf is used for earache and a roasted slice of the bulb is placed over the ear to ease the pain. A brew of the leaves in water is used for malaria, rheumatic fever and kidney problems. It produces masses of seed and propagates easily from seed. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crinum campanulatum

(Water Crinum)

A deciduous groundcover that grows about 40cm high, but it requires some effort as one should leave it in the pond during summer and remove it from the water in winter to prevent the bulb from rotting. It is a true aquatic species that needs to be placed under water in order to flower. It requires full sun and is an ideal plant for water gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crinum graminicola

(Grass Crinum)

A deciduous summer-growing bulb with a 45cm stem holding several white to pinkish-rose flowers with a very deep rose stripe on each petal opening during summer. It is slow to mature and takes a minimum of eight years before it flowers. The leaves are comparatively narrow for the large size of the plant. It is very difficult to propagate so enjoy seeing them in our grasslands. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily and graminicola means 'growing among grtasses'.

Crinum macowanii

(River Lily)

The large, beautifully scented bell shaped pale pink to dark pink flowers, sometimes darkly streaked are displayed at the top of a long stalk (about 1-1,2m) above a clump of strap–shaped green leaves are seen in a spring to summer. As the plant is dormant in winter, it needs to be kept dry in winter.It is similar to Crinum bulbispermum but it has black anthers. It’s an ideal, frost hardy plant for wetland gardens and requires full sun. The bulb is used traditionally for kidney and bladder diseases, itchy rashes, tuberculosis and rheumatic fever. The leaves are used as bandages for swellings. Like the Crinum bulbispermum, it is also a protective charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily. This specie is named for Dr Peter MacOwan (1830-1901) an academic, plant collector and professor who moved to South Africa for health reasons. He was, in 1869 the director of the Cape Town Botanical Gardens and curator of the Cape Government Herbarium. He was one of the first Professors of Botany at UCT..After his retirement he worked at the Albany Museum where many of his specimens were preserved.

Crinum moorei

(Moores Crinum)

This evergreen bulb grows about 1m high and 1m wide. It produces fragrant pink flowers in summer and the leaves die off after flowering. This Crinum does not tolerate direct sun. It will tolerate light frost but should be in a sheltered position to protect the dormant bulbs from harm. The flowers are perfumed, more so in the evenings. Plant the bulbs in shade or semi shade with compost and fertilizer and mulch well after planting. Ensure that you leave sufficient space between the bulbs as they produce new bulbs around the mother plant. Water deeply and regularly during the months of spring and summer for best results. It is used medicinally for urinary tract infections, to treat cattle, cleanse the blood, treat infected sores and for acne. It attracts insects eating birds and butterflies. An ideal plant for wetland gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

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.

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