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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'.

Albizia adianthifolia

(Flatcrown)

This is a fast growing, deciduous, large tree with a clean straight trunk and branches that arch upwards and outwards, so that the feathery foliage forms a flat spreading crown. The flowers are white and fluffy and the flowering time is autumn. It grows up to a metre per year and does well in sun or shade. It is very frost tender and therefore is not suitable for Highveld gardens. The wood is used for turning, making drums, carving spoons, the poles are used for building and the bark is used medicinally for skin complaints. It is also used for firewood. The leaves are used to make a tea to treat dysentery. A bark infusion is used to treat toothache. It attracts birds like Forest Weavers that tear open the seed pods in search for parasites. It is also the larval host plant for several butterflies like the Kerstens Hairtail, Blue-spotted Emperor, Satyr Emperor and the Common Sailor. Elephants eat the leaves and young shoots. A lovely tree for a large, warm garden. This tree was introduced to the Seychelles where it has now become an invader specie.

Aloe ferox

(Bitter Aloe)

This evergreen aloe is happy in the sun. It occurs from the Cape, Kwazulu Natal, Free State and Lesotho. It was first utilised and painted on rocks by the Khoi. The beautiful orange-red flowers occur in winter and attract birds and butterflies and children who suck the nectar which is said to be narcotic. It is single-stemmed, grows to 3 meters and is quite dramatic in flower. This Aloe was first introduced to Europe in 1700. It is medicinal and the healing sap is exported for the medicine trade. The dried sap has been exported since 1760 It is used as a laxative and to treat arthritis, rheumatism, hypertension and stress. It is also used in hair and skin cream products. It is often used as a skin lightening gel. It is rich in amino acids and minerals. Don't use this medicine during pregnancy. The leaf sap is used to treat burns. The chopped leaves and a bucket of wild rosemary and khaki bos are left over night to steep in boiling water and this water is used to bath dogs as a tick repellent. The leaves are browsed while the flowers are enjoyed by monkeys and baboon. They are also made into a delicious jam which is similar to watermelon jam. It is used in a rockery but is very slow growing. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

Barleria obtusa

(Bush Violet)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The pale mauve trumpet shaped flowers occur in summer and autumn. They attract birds, the insect eaters as well as butterflies as it is the larval host plant for the Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterfly. It is great for containers and it’s a low maintenance plant, other than an annual pruning at the end of winter. It is ideal for small gardens, but needs to be kept as a bush as I’ve seen ours scampering up the trees when left to their own devises!

Brachylaena discolor

(Wild Silver Oak)

These medium sized evergreen trees are frost resistant, drought resistant and are happy in the sun or the shade. It tolerates poor soil and coastal winds so is useful to stabilize sand dunes at the coast.The cream flowers are rich in nectar and open in summer. They attract birds like the shrikes and the orioles, butterflies and mammals. The leaves are browsed by Nyala, Bushbuck,Diuker and the Black Rhino strip the bark. The early settlers burnt them and used the ash to make soap whereas the Zulu diviners use the stems and roots to communicate with their ancestors. It is used medicinally as the leaves are pounded and ingested for intestinal parasite and roundworm. discolor means varying in colour which refers to the dark upper leaf and the silver under leaf. It is also used as a tonic for diabetes. The wood is used for carving, boat and hut making, fencing and spear shafts. It has non-aggressive roots so can be planted 3 meters walls or in pots. It is also useful as a hedge or windbreak.

Buddleja salvifolia

(Sagewood)

This small, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pink/mauve flowers open in the summer and they attract birds, bees and many butterfly species. It is useful for hedging/screening or containers. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not observed that. It is used to stabilize embankments around dams, streams and rivers. It is very useful as a nurse plant to protect other trees in very cold areas, so one would plant 2 trees in the same, large hole. Once the frost tender one has grown, the Buddleja salvifolia can be removed. It is magical and medicinal and the roots are poisonous and are used in withcraft but the flowers are used as a springtime tonic. This tree is an indicator of underground water or streams. It is useful on a game farm where it is browsed. It is used medicinally as the roots are used to treat coughs and colds and eye infections and colic are treated with a leaf infusion, with only 4 leaves in a cup of hot water. A root decoction is used for stomach aches and upsets, colic diarrhea and flatulence. Bark is steeped in hot water over night and is used to treat sores and scratches as well as an eye lotion. The fresh or dried leaves are used to make tea, to be enjoyed black with honey. Established trees are easily transplanted. Flowers can be dried for pot pourri. Named for Adam Buddle 1660-1715 an English amateur botanist, vicar and plant collector. He created Britain's first herbarium.

Celtis africana

(White Stinkwood)

This medium deciduous tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in sun or semi-shade. if well watered it will grow 2 meters a year. It occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Ethiopia. Tiny yellow, sweetly scented flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds. The fruit is also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The tree is also browsed by game like kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala and grey duiker. It is also used for nesting sites and a tall perch from which to lookout. Butterflies like the African Snout, Blue-spotted Emperor and the Foxy Emperor as well as several moths are also attracted to this fodder tree. It is a popular bonsai subject and the wood is used for furniture, construction, flooring, mine props, toys, ladders, boxes and crates. It is also used for firewood as well as charcoal production.It can be planted in a container. The common name is as a result of the unpleasant smell when the wood is first cut. It is magical as is used to protect against lightening by mixing the wood shavings with crocodile fat. The medicinal uses are numerous, treating a fever, headache, sore eyes and pleurisy. The bark is made into rope. It is always found where there is underground water or streams. Plant it 6 meters from buildings or pools. This is a protected tree in South Africa.

Chrysanthemoides monilifera

(Bush Tick Berry)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The leaves are browsed by game like the blue duiker and other antelope. The yellow flowers open in autumn and attract insect and fruit eating birds. It is the larval host to several moth and butterfly species like the Beaufort, Mooi River, Natal, Water and Common Opals and the delightfully named Jitterbug Daisy Copper. It is useful for informal hedging, screening and windbreaks. Withstands salt laden winds at the coast so is perfect to stabilize the dunes and to plant in a coastal garden.The fruits have a juicy, nutty flavour and are eaten by children, monkeys and birds and the juice of the fruit is used medicinally to strengthen the blood, for impotence, intestinal ailments, pimples and to treat fevers. The fruit is also added to porridge to give strength. The berries can be made into a jam or a cordial. The leaves are used as an enema for fevers. Leaves are considered to be toxic to stock. The leaves were also burnt and the ash was used to make soap. The ash is also added to water and left to steep over night, this is then splashed onto mildew, daily for 4 days. It was introduced to Australia where it has spread like wild fire and has now become one of their worst weeds.

Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow, slightly scented and open in September to November. The fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They stay on the tree for a long time. The fruit is poisonous and results in hiccups. A popular shade tree, surprisingly drought and frost resistant and fast growing, reaching 4-6 m in three years. The gum has interesting antibiotic properties and is applied to sores. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood, which is yellow, tough and easily worked. It is also used as fire wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots which is used when tanning hides. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements and are eaten by pied barbets. It has non-aggressive roots and attracts birds. It is the larval host plant for several butterflies like Liordes Hairtail, Red -tab Policeman, Two-pip Policeman and the Orange-barred Playboy. I just love these charming butterfly names! It is an ideal tree for wetlands as well as game farms as it is browsed by Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Giraffe and Elephant. It is often used as a street tree, in large gardens and along rivers. There are many medicinal uses. Root bark and stem bark are used to treat a cough, infertility, leprosy and VD. The bark is taken during labour to ease childbirth, to treat infertility and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are used for coughs and abdominal pains.The roots, which some regard as poisonous are used as a purgative, to treat venereal diseases and as a prophylactic for V.D. The roots are fed to dogs by the Zulu to fatten them up.

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.

Cussonia spicata

(Common Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is fast growing in the sun. The green/yellow flowers open in Autumn. This decorative tree is a lovely form plant with bright green leaves crowded at the tips of the branches and long bare stems. The fruit are fleshy and purple when ripe and they attract birds and butterflies. Ideal for a small garden but it does have aggressive roots so don’t plant less than 5 meters from a wall or a pool. It requires good drainage and thrives on lots of compost. The Leaves are browsed by elephant and kudu and people eat the roots to obtain moisture. The roots and bark are also eaten by black rhino, baboon and bushpigs. It is frost tender in cold gardens. An infusion of the root is used medicinally for malaria, stomach complaints and V D. The roots are also chewed for virility and strength. They taste similar to sugar cane. The grated bark is used in hot water to make a poultice for cramp and muscle spasm. This solution is also used to bath newborn babies to ensure a strong child and prevent skin rashes and pimples. Some folk believe that it one is planted near the homestead, it will ensure fat, healthy children. Dried flowers are added to snuff. The leaves are used as a fish poison but are palatable to cattle and goats. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

Deinbollia oblongifolia

(Dune Soap-Berry)

This small evergreen tree is drought resistant and fast growing in the shade. It produces white/cream flowers in Autumn which attract insects and insect eating birds. The round yellow fruit is eaten by people, monkeys and birds. It is the larval host to many butterfly species like the Emperors, Playboys, Foresters and Hairstreaks. It’s useful for containers or bonsai as it has non-aggressive roots. It is an attractive garden plant which can also be used indoors. Traditionally the seeds are used to make soap, the leaves are eaten as spinach and browsed by game and the roots used medicinally for gastric complaints. Named for Peter Vogelius Deinboll 1783-1874, a Danish entomologist, clergyman, Parliamentarian and collector. His insect collection is the oldest in the Natural History Museum in Oslo.

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks!The roots and twigs are antimicrobial. An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

Dombeya burgessae

(Pink Wild Pear)

This decidous shrub or small tree grows to a height of 4m and it is a very fast growing. The leaves of this tree are large, velvety, soft and lobed reminiscent of grape leaves. It tolerates both light frost and periods of drought. The pink flowers open in Autumn and make a lovely show. I saw it planted on a wire support above a patio, so all the pink flowers made a pink ‘roof’ and it was quite spectacular. The bark and leaves are eaten by Black Rhino. The bark is used for fibre. This is the larval host plant for the Ragged Skipper and the Buff-tipped Skipper butterflies and moths. Named for Joseph Dombey 1742-1794, a French naturalist, physician, botanist and traveller. His research into the cinchona plant which produces quinine. He wrote numerous books that were only published once he had died. Sometimes his specimens were captured and sent to the British Museum instead of the French one. They were also confiscated. On a trip to the USA they were struck by a storm and never arrived. He was captured and imprisoned, for a ransom, in the West Indies where he died in jail.

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