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Erythrina lysistemon

(Common Coral Tree)

Occurs on the Witwatersrand, Swaziland, Transkei and Natal. It is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers in winter-spring. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees. The red flowers are show stoppers and are loved by nectar feeding birds and bees and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Giant Emperor and the Protea Emperor butterflies and 11 moth species. Monkeys eat the flower buds. The roots are aggressive therefore plant it 6 meters from buildings, pools and roads. Plant it in full sun and be aware that it is frost sensitive when young so do protect them from frost. This tree is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The bark is medicinal for toothache, to treat wounds, arthritis, earache and strips of the bark are used to tie bundles of herbs. Chiefs use the bark mixed with the root of the Cussonia as a purifying emetic. A branch is planted on the deceased's grave as this is said to protect the person in the afterlife. There are trials underway as the seed is said to be a painkiller. The leaves are used to ease the healing of sores, or boiled in water to make ear drops. The fresh leaves are also placed in the shoes to treat tired feet and cracked heels. The leaves are browsed by Black Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Nyala, and Klipspringer, so it's great for a game farm. The seeds are eaten by Cape Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots. The wood is prone to wood-borer so the woodpeckers enjoy them.The roots are eaten by bushpigs and porcupines. The Lucky Bean seeds are put into wallets to bring luck. Branches can be cut and planted as living fence poles. Drought resistant. This is a popular bonsai subject. We planted one next to a Dombeya rotudifolia and as they flower simultaneously in early spring, it is a joy to behold! The name is derived from Greek erythros=red, referring to the red flowers. The seed pods are black and burst open to disperse the red seeds. The seeds are considered to be toxic but no deaths are recorded. The leaves are sometimes covered in bumps which are caused by psyllids which are insects that that live under the bumps. They cause no damage to the tree. They lose their leaves in winter and the new leaves in spring are enjoyed by many worms and caterpillars. Woodpeckers search the bark for wood boring insects.

Ficus ingens

(Red-Leaved Rock Fig)

This is an evergreen tree which is briefly deciduous and grows to 10 m, with a rounded or spreading crown and with a spread of up to 30 m wide. All the parts have milky latex which is visible when a leaf is broken. The bark is grey, smooth and becomes cracked in older specimens.The heart-shaped or lanceolate, dull green leaves are hairless and leathery, with conspicuous yellow veins running parallel from the midrib. New leaves are coppery or reddish. It has an aggressive and invasive root system and should therefore not be planted near buildings, swimming pools, drainage or sewerage systems. It is popular as a container plant and as a bonsai. Because it is such a lovely shade tree and is fast growing, it is suitable for large gardens. The leaves are reportedly toxic but the new leaves are eaten by kudu, nyala and grey duiker. The fruit is edible but not always as palatable as Ficus carica, although mammals like dassies, monkeys, squirrels baboons and bushbabies eat the fruit while fallen fruit is eaten by nyala, bushpig, waterhog, suni and grey duiker. Pigeons, parrots, louries, starlings, barbets and bulbuls enjoy the fruit. It is the larval host plant for the Common Fig-tree Blue and the Lesser Fig-tree Blue butterflies. It is pollinated by a wasp. Extracts of the bark are administered to cows with a low milk production. The latex is used as a substitute disinfectant for iodine. It is medicinal as the bark decoction is used for anemia.The wood is strong and is used for timber on the farms. It is fast growing but needs to be protected from the frost when young. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

Kigelia africana

(Sausage Tree)

This large deciduous tree grows to 18m and it is very fast growing. The trunk has light brown sometimes flaky bark and supports a dense rounded to spreading crown of leathery slightly glossy foliage. The leaves are browsed by kudu and elephant. The sausage tree produces long open sprays of large wrinkled maroon or dark red trumpet–shaped flowers that are velvety on the inside and that virtually overflow with nectar. The flowers have an unpleasant smell at night which attracts the bats which pollinate them. Baboon and monkeys eat the flowers and the fallen flowers are eaten by kudu, nyala, porcupine, impala and grey duiker. Nocturnal animals like bushpig, civets also eat the flowers. The fruits are unique, huge, grey–brown and sausage like and weigh about 4- 10 kg. Plant where falling fruit will not do damage to cars. They have antibacterial properties and is said to cure skin cancer. The fruit pulp is used in the production of cosmetics. Seeds from the ripe fruit are edible if roasted but are only used as famine food. Some say that the fruit is inedible and that the seeds are poisonous when green. Hippo and giraffe also eat the seed pods. The fruit are hung in a hut to protect against whirlwinds and evil. Birds eat the seeds. It has a rather aggressive root system, so it must be planted far from buildings and swimming pools. Plant alongside rivers and dams on farms and game farms. It is also suitable for large estates and municipal parks. It attracts birds and has numerous medicinal uses from snake bite treatment, ulcers, syphillis, rheumatism, pneumonia, ulcers, epilepsy, toothache to stomach and kidney complaints. Also used to ward off evil. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac and is used to fatten babies!. Lactating mothers rub the fruit on their breasts to stimulate milk production. The boiled fruit produces a red dye. The ripe fruit is mixed with honey and the bark of the tree to ferment beer. The hard wood is used for canoes as it does not crack. The mokoro's used in the Okavango Delta are carved from straight tree trunks. It is not a good firewood but the pods are burnt during times of wood scarcity. It is a larval host to the Coast Glider butterfly and one moth specie. The tree is regarded as holy and church services are held in the shade of these magnificent tree-cathedrals. It is a protected tree in South Africa. The Mozambican name is kigeli-keia. In his diary, David Livingston described the Sausage Tree under which they camped before seeing the Victoria Falls. This was at Kazangulu where Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Caprivi meet. Kazangulu was named after this famous Sausage Tree. One African name means 'the fat tail of the sheep' and the Arabic name means 'the father of kit bags'. If somebody dies away from home, then the family bury a fruit in their memory.

Strelitzia nicolai

(Natal Wild Banana)

This evergreen tree is medium sized and gives Kwazulu Natal it’s tropical feel as it grows profusely in the dune forests. It is a rapid grower and is happy in sun or semi-shade. The stunning purple/blue and cream flowers open in Spring/Summer and attract birds, the insect and nectar eaters, like the sunbirds. The flowers are eaten by monkeys. Tree frogs hibernate in the leaves and Banana bats roost in the leaves.It also attracts butterflies. It can be planted as a specimen plant or used for informal hedging/screening. It has very aggressive roots so don’t plant it near swimming pools or walls. We have one planted in a pot in the nursery to show the damage that the roots cause. It is used to make rope and the seeds are ground into flour and made into patties which are roasted. The seeds are also eaten by monkeys, Red-eyed doves, Redbilled Woodhoopoes, bulbuls, barbets and starlings. It is the larval host plant for the Banana-tree Nightfighter butterfly. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor

Syzygium cordatum

(Water Berry)

An evergreen, water-loving tree, which grows to a height of 8 -15 m. This tree is often found near streams, on forest margins or in swampy spots. The leaves are elliptic to circular, bluish green on top and a paler green below. Young leaves are reddish and they are browsed by game. The white to pinkish fragrant flowers are borne in branched terminals and have numerous fluffy stamens and produce abundant nectar and therefore planted by bee keepers. It flowers from August to November. The fruits are oval berries, red to dark-purple when ripe and the fleshy fruit is slightly acidic in flavour and is eaten by children, monkeys, bush pigs, bush-babies and birds. The berries are also used to make an alcoholic drink. The powdered bark is used as a fish poison which turns the water blue for a week. In Central Africa the tree is known as a remedy for stomach ache, colds, fever and diarrhea. It is also used to treat respiratory ailments and tuberculosis. The bark, leaves and roots are used to make a poultice to increase the milk flow of lactating mothers. This beautiful tree attracts birds and other insects so it is ideal for a bird garden. The wood is used for furniture and for boat building as it is durable in water. It is the larval host plant of the Silver-barred Charaxes, Morant's Orange and the Apricot playboy butterflies. This is a protected tree is South Africa. Plant it 5 meters from a building or a pond. The name is derived from the Greek syn=together; zygon=a yoke hence syzygos=joined; referring to the paired branches and leaves.

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