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Cussonia paniculata

(Highveld Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is not suitable for coastal gardens. The green flowers open in Summer and they attract numerous insects, which in turn entice the insect eating birds. This structural tree has thick stems and drooping grey leaves and it attracts birds, butterflies and the Emperor Moth. The leaves are browsed by game like kudu as well a cattle and goats. The baboons and birds eat the seeds. The thick, aggressive, tuberous roots are peeled and eaten raw as an emergency food or as a source of water. It has medicinal properties as a decoction of the leaf is used to treat mental disease. Is ideal for a small garden provided that it is not planted closer than 5 meters from a wall as it has aggressive roots. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who travelled extensively and wrote many publications. Paniculata refers to the flowers that are arranged in a loose cluster. Plant as an accent plant in a large garden, or in a rockery amongst Aloes and succulents a the grey foliage is a lovely contrast.

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.

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

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