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Vachellia xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)

(Fever Tree)

This large sized deciduous tree is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade .It also grows well in a swampy, low lying areas and clay soils. It was originally thought that the tree caused malaria, hence it's common name. It was the swampy conditions that caused the malaria. The fragrant yellow flowers open in Spring and smell like vanilla which attracts insects and insectivorous birds. There is also a white flowering form. First hand experience shows that it has an aggressive roots system, although some books claim that they are non aggressive. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pool. The beautiful yellow bark makes it distinctive and highly sought after, but be aware that they are frost tender when young. It is a useful tree as it has medicinal bark, edible gum and the timber is used for boxwood, furniture and carving as it is hard and heavy. Elephants eat the young branches and giraffe, monkeys and baboon eat the leaves, flowers and the pods. Weavers like to build their nests in these trees, probably because the thorns help to protect them. The bark is used as a good luck charm and it is used medicinally, mixed with dried roots to treat malaria and to treat fevers and eye complaints and the bark is rolled into small balls and chewed for a cough and sore throat. Branches are used to protect fields from hippo. This is a popular bonsai subject. Unfortunately this fungal disease is rather common on Fever Trees. The fungus has been identified as a rust, similar to Uromyces. The suggestion is to totally spray the trunks with triazole type fungicides. (Defender or Bumper 30 ml per 100 L water) Probably the most popular treatment is a total drench with Trichotec --- Trichoderma spp. A living fungi that is antagonistic to many other pathogenic fungi. After the drench it is essential to cover as much of the treated trunk with newspaper to shield the Trichoderma from ultra violet light for a few weeks. Preventatively - be careful as weed-eater damage can initiate an infection. If this is not successful, call an arborist for their opinion and treatment. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants. Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Elephant's child' immortalised the specie with 'The banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with Fever Trees'.

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.

Dierama pendulum

(Harebell or Angel's Fishing Rod)

This deciduous bulb grows to 1m x 1m in the sun. It is frost resistant. The sprays of pink flowers occur in summer and it is a show stopper when in full bloom. As it occurs in wetlands and along our rivers it is suitable for a bog garden or near a water feature. Burning in winter promotes flowering. The corms are placed in gourds as a charm for a good harvest. They are also crushed and used on bruises. The flowers are are mixed with hot water and the juice of the Sour Fig (Carpobrotus) leaf and applied to bites, stings and rashes. The bulbs are also medicinal as they are used as a purgative or an enema. The name is derived from the Greek 'diorama'=a funnel which refers to the shape of the flower.

Juncus effusus

(Common Rush)

Juncus effusus is a clump forming wetland plant that is a striking vertical addition to any garden or container planting. It grows to 70cm high and 30cm wide. Upright, fanning, deep green, rounded stems make a great accent in container or water gardens. It can be planted at the edge of that is about 20 cm deep. Inconspicuous golden flowers appear on top of the stems in summer. It provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife and it is also used to make traditional sitting mats. It thrives when planted in sun and is an ideal plant for a wet land garden or around a water feature. They attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Kniphofia praecox

(Red-Hot Poker)

This is a must for a stunning winter garden. It is an evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant and fast growing. Plant a clump of them in the sun, in a moist area or a wetland. The orange-yellow flowers make a stunning display in winter and attract birds and butterflies. It is suitable for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in the vase. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

Scabiosa africana

(Pincushion)

This is a fast-growing groundcover that has finely divided grey-green foliage. It covers 30 x 30cm in full sun and semi-shade. It produces a pretty mauve flower in spring and autumn on long stalks about 40cm tall. Plant these in a mixed border and use the flowers for the vase. The flowers attract butterflies and birds. The name is from the Latin scabios=rough, scaly and from the Latin scapies-roughness, scurf, itch, referring to leprosy; alluding to the plant's supposed ability to cure cutaneous diseases and as remedies for relief from 'the itch'.

Wachendorfia thrysiflora

(Blood Root)

Wachendorfia thrysiflora or Blood root has very distinctive leaves that are pleated. The flower spike can grow to 1.5m and is covered in star shaped yellow flowers. It occurs in the winter rainfall areas so would need watering during the winter on the Highveld. It has beautiful red colouration on the bottom of the stems and their roots are red as indicated by their common name. A very dramatic plant and worth planting near a pond, water feature or dam. This an easy plant to grow and is ideally suited to marshy or swampy conditions in full sun or semi-shade, but will also grow in soil that is not waterlogged provided it gets ample water particularly during winter and spring. A generous mulch of compost is also very beneficial. It is evergreen if it is given water all year round, but if given total summer drought it may die down and go dormant. Wachendorfia thyrsiflora is invaluable in difficult, permanently wet areas, is an attractive addition to the water garden where it can be planted at the waters edge or where the water overflows, and it makes an excellent backdrop to the herbaceous border. It attracts birds and butterflies. Named for Evert Jacob van Wachendorff (1702-1758)

Zantedeschia aethiopica

(White Arum Lily, Pig's Lily)

Commonly called 'Pig's Lily' as the tubers were boiled and fed to the pigs. Porcupines also enjoy the tubers. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb, then braised with onions and chilli. A much loved evergreen groundcover which is fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. The large white flowers occur in spring and they attract birds and butterflies. There’s a multitude of uses for this much loved flower, either in wetlands, near water features or in containers. It has medicinal uses as the warmed leaves are used on sores, boils, insect bites, for gout, ulcers, headaches and rheumatism. The leaves must not be crushed as the juice is an irritant. Leaf, root and stem extracts show antibiotic properties.The leaves produce a yellow dye. The flowers are long lasting in a vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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