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Searsia chirindensis (Rhus chirindensis)

(Red Currant)

The red currant is a semi-deciduous shrub to small tree, 6-10 m tall although it may reach 20 m. Young and coppicing branches are armed with spines, although the mature tree is spineless. The flowers are small, yellowish green and are borne in clusters at the ends of the branches from August to March. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees. The edible fruit, which is round, shiny, slightly fleshy, dark reddish brown are borne from December to March, in heavy clusters which can weigh down the branches. They are also enjoyed by people and fruit eating birds like pigeons, louries, bulbuls, barbets and parrots as well as monkeys. The leaves and the bark are browsed by Black Rhino, kudu, duiker, bushbuck and nyala. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade and should be planted in well-drained, composted soil. It does not have an aggressive root system. It will tolerate moderate frosts and is drought hardy. The sap of this tree is used in traditional medicine for treating heart complaints. The bark is also used to strengthen the body, to stimulate circulation and in the treatment of rheumatism and mental disorders. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The wood is red and is used to make furniture. We have had Mopani worms on the tree in our nursery which delighted my staff as they eat them. A lovey shade tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Searsia dentata ( Rhus dentata )

(Nana-Berry)

A deciduous shrub to small tree up to 6 m high, with a smooth, greyish brown bark. The leaves, which are pink when young, turn dull yellow to orange-red in autumn. The small, yellowish green flowers are borne in clusters at the end of the branches from September to November, and this species has male and female flowers on different plants. The flowers are followed by the shiny, bright red fruits, in heavy clusters from November to January on the female plants. This species grows in almost any kind of soil. Young plants need lots of water but once they are established, they do not need much. These plants are therefore good subjects for water-wise gardening. This shrub does well in a cool soil, with a thick layer of leaf mulch on top. It prefers sun or semi-shade. It is frost and drought hardy and makes a beautiful container plant. It attracts birds and other insects. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books. Add new comment

Searsia pendulina (Rhus pendulina)

(White Karee)

This willowy evergreen small to medium-sized tree, 4 to 9 m tall. It is quick and easy to grow, tolerates wind and drought, and is evergreen with a graceful habit and a neat crown. It won't get too big and it's not untidy. Tiny green flowers are produced in spring-summer. They are inconspicuous, but attract bees and other insects. The flowers are followed by small rounded berries, green turning reddish and drying to black, usually ripening in the autumn. They are eaten by starlings, barbets and bulbuls. The sour fruits are eaten when dry. It is the food plant for the Charaxes butterfly.It has non-aggressive roots, is frost hardy, drought resistant and fast growing. Milk is infused with leaves and given to children for stomach upsets. The wood is used as it is durable and termite proof and is therefore used for building. The thin branc It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. hes are used for making fish traps. It is a protected tree in South Africa. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Searsia pyroides (Rhus pyroides)

(Fire Thorn)

This is a deciduous shrub or small to medium-sized, multistemmed tree, frequently with spines. The bark is rough and grey. The leaves are compound, composed of three leaflets (tri-foliate). The leaves are borne on slender stalks, which are furrowed above. The leaflets are oval, narrowing at both ends, sometimes with a short tip. They are smooth or velvety above, the lower surface is usually slightly hairy. The fruits ripen in summer to late autumn and in such quantities that the branches bend with the weight. The fruits are round and small, white and red when ripe. The wood is used to make hoe handles. The branches are used to build kraals. The roots are used in traditional medicine.The fruit is edible, with a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. It is a hardy, frost-resistant plant and is well suited to Highveld gardens. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves.Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Searsia zeheri (Rhus zeheri)

(Blue Currant)

It is a beautiful neat and compact ornamental that grows to 3m high and 3m wide. It is a deciduous tree that has attractive blue-green leathery foliage and occasionally develops into a small tree up to 4m high. It produces yellow flowers in summer and rounded decorative fruits which ripen to russet-red. It should be planted in sun and it is drought resistant, attracts birds. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The name is derived fro the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

Senegalia burkei ( Acacia burkei )

(Black Monkey Thorn)

This tree grows in thee Savanna areas and can be seen in the Magaliesberg. This is a deciduous single-stemmed tree which branches fairly high up. The main stem in young trees is yellowish with papery flakes and mature trees have longitudinal fissures. The white, spike flowers open in summer. The recurved thorns are dark grey. Bright red pods are found in drooping clusters and are reddish-brown, straight with a pointed tip and split while still on the tree. It has aggressive roots therefore it shouldn’t be planted closer than 5 meters from buildings or pools. The roots are used to produce yellow dye. It attracts birds like Woodpeckers and Red Billed Wood Hoopoes as they forage on the insects that hide in the fissured bark. It is also a fodder tree for Elephants, Giraffe and Antelope. Pods are also eaten by game and bush babies. Monkeys, Bushbabies and people enjoy the gum. Bark and roots are used medicinally for eye and back complaints. A popular bonsai subject. The wood is termite proof and is used for riempie benches and chairs as well as fencing posts. It is heavy and is utilized for fuel for cooking. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Pennington's Playboy and the Van Sons Playboy.

Senegalia ataxacantha (Acacia ataxacantha)

(Flame Thorn)

A small, deciduous tree which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. In summer it is covered in white, spike flowers which attracts insect eating birds and is often used for nesting sites. It makes a great thorny, security barrier. There are scattered hook thorns . The beautiful red pods give rise to the common name of Flame Thorn. The wood is flexible when split into strips and these are used to weave baskets. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Black-striped Hairtail, the Satyr Emperor and the Club-tailed Emperor.

Senegalia caffra ( Acacia caffra)

(Common Hook Thorn)

This fast growing, deciduous tree that grows to a medium height of 9m x 9m. It grows in numerous areas including the Highveld. Often seen on quartzite koppies as it tolerates low ph soil. It is very attractive with its pale green, soft and feathery drooping foliage. The fluffy, creamy yellow flower spikes are very pretty and fragrant and are visible in spring. They are followed by straight flat brown pods. It has brown, paired hook thorns which are not easily shed. The edible flowers attract monkeys, birds and insects. It is considered to be a good fodder tree and is also eaten by livestock, Black Rhino, giraffe, kudu, impala, reedbuck and grey duiker. Plant it in full sun with moderate water. It is also good for bonsai. It has a rather aggressive root system so don't plant it closer than 3 meters from a building or pool. The long flexible branches are used for basket making and it also used for tobacco pipes. The wood is hard and termite proof so it is used for fencing posts and furniture. It is also used for fuel as it produces long lasting coal. It is traditionally used as a protection charm by hammering branches into the ground. The bark, leaves and roots have medicinal and magical properties. The leaves are eaten for abdominal disorders and the roots are used as a love charm emetic. The bark is used for blood cleansing and it is also used as a light brown dye.The wood is hard and is used for fence poles and fuel. It tolerates fire and is frost and drought resistant. This is the larval host plant for the Pennington's Playboy and the Van Son's Playboy.

Senegalia erioloba ( Acacia erioloba)

(Camel Thorn)

This is a very beautiful and distinctive tree which is slow-growing. in 1760 it was named 'camel thorn' by Jacobus Coetzee which is a translation from the afrikaans 'kameeldoring' which is the acacia of the giraffe as they are fond of the leaves. The camel thorn grows well in deep sandy soils with a high ph and in harsh environmental conditions, where it can reach 17 m. This is a protected tree in South Africa. The tree bears bright yellow ball-like flowers that are sweetly scented and has blue /green foliage. The seed pods are large boot shaped and the seeds are roasted and used as coffee. They are borne in late winter and last through to summer. The thorns are swollen at the base. The bark is distinctive and a dark brown black. It has numerous medicinal uses. The inner bark is powdered and used as a body perfume. The dry, powdered pods can be used to treat ear infections. The gum can be used for the treatment of gonorrhoea and the pulverised, burned bark is used to treat headaches. The root is used to treat toothache. To treat tuberculosis, the root is boiled for a few minutes and the infusion is swirled around in the mouth and spat out. It an ideal plant for hedging/screening and a thorny, security barrier. It has been exploited in the past as it has very strong wood and was used for wagon building, mine-props and excellent firewood which smells like cinnamon when burnt. It attracts birds and mammals.The Dark Chopper moth's hairy caterpillars can denude the trees. The cocoons are used for leg rattles during traditional dancing and some attempts have been made to use them for silk. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Linda's Hairtail. Good quality gum is produced which could be exported.It is eaten by animals, birds and people. These trees are home to the tree rat which eats the gum, leaves and seeds. It makes grass lined nests in hollows in the bark which are a fire hazard.The bush-baby is also a resident as they eat the gum. This tree is regarded as sacred and some believe that it attracts lightening. It is believed that if you take refuge in the tree, you will be protected from lightening, enemies and wild animals.

Senegalia galpinii (Acacia galpinii)

(Monkey Thorn)

This deciduous tree loses its leaves during the winter and is drought and frost resistant. It has a large rounded crown and is fast-growing as it can reach 25-30 m. The flower buds are purple-red and the creamy white, spike flowers open during September-October. They smell of honey! Reddish to purplish brown pods ripen during February-March. It survives hot and dry conditions and is a stunning tree as a street tree provided there is sufficient space. It is an ideal tree for a big garden. It is grazed and used for shade by giraffe, kudu and elephant. Many birds nest in this tree as it provides protection. We have a pair of grey Hornbill that nest in one on our property. It provides dappled shade on hot summer days, making it an ideal tree for planting on a lawn where some sun can penetrate. Many insects such as bees and wasps visit the flowers so it also attracts insect eating birds. The bark is used for rope and the wood is used for furniture. Mature trunks are rough and the bark often flakes away in rectangular patched. This tree has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 8 meters from a building or a pool. Named for Ernest Edward Galpin (1858-1941)a South African botanist and banker. He left 16,000 sheets to the Natural Herbarium and several species are named after him. .

Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Senegalia nigrescens ( Acacia nigrescens )

(Knob-thorn)

This deciduous, medium sized tree usually grows in single-species stands. They are slow growers and reach a height of 8-20m. The very strong hooked thorns are retained on old growth, eventually growing into large spiny knobs. This is an aid to identifying the trees when they are leafless. The bark is distinctive, dark brown, rough and deeply fissured. The creamy white flower spikes are at first rusty-pink, but white when fully open. Its flowering time is in spring and the sweetly scented flowers occur before the leaves and in profusion. Honeybees are fond of the nectar and it produces a good honey. The flowers are eaten by giraffe, baboons and monkeys and the leaves and pods are eaten by elephant, giraffe, kudu, duiker, impala and steenbok. The oblong pod is very dark brown. The leaves are round and much bigger than other Acacias. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb or spinach. Elephant also eat the inner bark which has healing properties to fight tooth decay. The knobs are ground and used as a painkiller and to treat eye infections. There is a belief that if it is applied to young girls they will develop large breasts. 40 % of a girafffe's diet consists of the leaves and it is thought that they pollinate the flowers. It should be planted in full sun. It is frost hardy and survives moderate drought. It is an ideal plant for bonsai. This is a host plant for the Demon Emperor butterfly and the Dusky Charaxes. It is also the host plant of the Cream Striped Owl Moth which have distinctive eye-spots on the wings. Birds like Woodpeckers, Barbets, Scops Owl and Squirrels utilise it for nesting in holes. White backed vultures nest in those trees that are close to rivers. The wood is hard, heavy and difficult to work, but it is used for furniture, flooring, railway sleepers and mine props. It's useful for fencing poles as it is termite resistant, and is used for fighting sticks and long burning fuel. The inner bark is used to make twine while the outer bark is used for tanning leather.They are shallow rooted and elephant often knock the trees down, so don't camp near these trees. It is used magically as poles are planted in the ground to stop lightening striking the village. In Botswana a tree with a girth of 43 cm was carbon dated and aged at 313 years.That's 100 years before the French Revolution! The name is derived from the Greek word akis meaning a point or spike referring to the thorns and the Latin word 'nigrescans' meaning 'becoming black' which refers to the seed pods that blacken with age. Mistletoe is often seen growing on these trees.

Spirostachys africana

(Tamboti)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree with a round crown occurs at low altitudes. It grows up to 18 m in height. The tree is commonly known for its toxic milky latex that exudes from all parts of it. Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flower heads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The flowers are visited by bees. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days from October to February. The Knobthorn Moth lays its eggs in the fruit and the larvae cause the fruit to jump once they have hatched. This is why they are called 'jumping beans'.The fruit is eaten by birds, antelope and monkeys. This tree is very attractive in larger gardens, it is fairly drought and frost resistant, but grows very slowly. Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as a painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs. Powdered bark is rubbed all over the body to prevent having a hairy body. Wood smoke is inhaled to drive away evil spirits. Pieces of bark are worn as a protective charm and it is also used as a fish poison. It attracts birds, butterflies and is also ideal for bonsai. Antelope, stock and monkeys eat the fallen leaves while fresh leaves are eaten by Black Rhino and Elephant. Porcupine eat the bark. Although it is medicinal, all parts of this tree can cause nausea and death. The wood is hard and is used for furniture but is lethal if used for fuel. It is more fragrant than sandalwood and can be put into linen cupboards to keep fish-moths away. Even the sawdust smoke is lethal if burnt. I read of children who died after using the branches as skewers to braai their boerewors. The name is derived from the Greek speiros = spiralled or twisted ; stachys= spike as the flowers are in a tight spiral on the spike.

Tabernaemontanum elegans

(Toad Tree)

This small shrub/tree is deciduous to evergreen depending on the climate and frost. The trunk is usually single, upright, with a rounded crown. The foliage is glossy dark green and in autumn the leaves change to bright yellow. The white, fragrant flowers clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring to autumn. The fruit, which resembles a toad, are eaten by monkeys, baboons, rhino. birds and people. The orange fruit pulp is considered to be edible and is also used to curdle milk, whereas the roots are used for chest problems. The latex has been used to stop bleeding and is also reported to be useful as bird lime. It attract birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by game and the bark protects the tree from fire. Named for Jakob Theodor von Bergzaben (1522-1590) also known as 'Tabernaemontanus' a German physician, pharmacist and botanist. He developed a passion for herbs and then studied medicine. He was known for his life's work, an illustrated book on medicinal herbs published in 1588. Throughout his life he tried to find a cure for the plague, typhus. The meaning of 'elegans' is elegant.

Thunbergia natalensis

(Natal Bluebell)

A deciduous shrub that grows to 1,2m x 90cm. This fast growing shrub prefers a lightly shaded position under trees and forms an attractive and dense shrub. The slightly hairy leaves of the Natal Bluebell shelter attractive tubular blue to blue mauve flowers, each with a white to yellow throat. Brides traditionally take a remedy prepared from this plant to guarantee a happy marriage. The stems of the plant are eaten by the long tailed tree mouse. It prefers moist conditions, so water well in summer or plant alongside a dam or water feature where its roots can reach some of the excess moisture. It attracts butterflies. Named for Carl Pehr Thunberg (1743-1828) a Swedish botanist, physician, Professor of botany and medicine. He visited the Cape to study Dutch and the flora of the Cape (1772-1775) . He collected 3100 specimens in the Cape.and published Flora Capensis. He then went to Japan, Jarva and Sri Lanka for 15 months. He wrote about his travels and Flora Japonica. He presented his herbarium of 23,510 specimens and 25,000 insects to the University. He was made a knight of the Royal Order and received many honours.

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