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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.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Grewia occidentalis

(Cross-Berry)

This small, deciduous tree is a must for all gardens, big or small. It is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun. It has pink flowers in summer followed by edible fruit which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters like the louries, mousebirds, bulbuls and barbets. The fruit is enjoyed by people and is sometimes dried for future use. They are then boiled in milk for a delicious milkshake. It is the larval host plant to the Buff-tipped Skipper and the Rufous-winged Elfin butterfly and is useful for informal hedging/screening. It certainly is a useful tree as the fruit is used to make beer, the bark is used to make a shampoo which prevents grey hair and the bark is soaked in hot water to make bandages, string and rope.It is also magical and medicinal as small twigs and bark are soaked in hot water and this is then used to clean wounds. A tea is made from twigs and leaves and this is taken for barrenness, impotency and to ease childbirth. it is also used to was both the mother and infant after childbirth. The wood is used for assegai handles, bows and arrows, fences, hut building, making basket handles and walking sticks. It is useful on a game farm as the leaves are browsed by cattle, goats, black rhino, giraffe, kudu, nyala and grey duiker. The roots are not aggressive. It can be used as informal screening. Such a wealth of uses and pretty too. Named after Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) a British physian, physiologist and botanist known as 'the father of plant physiology'. He graduate from Cambridge university in 1661 and then studied medicine at Leyden University in 1671. He published many works including The anatomy of Plants in 1682 and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Rotheca glabrum ( was Clerodendrum glabrum)

(White Cats Whiskers)

Clerodendrum glabrum now called Rotheca glabrum White Cats Whiskers SA Tree No. 667 This small deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The pretty pink flowers open in Spring. They attract butterflies, moths, bees and ants. It is the larval host plant for 11 moth species and the Natal bar and the Purple - brown Hairstreak butterflies. It is also useful as the leaves are rubbed onto the hands and face to repel bees when collecting honey. The fruit is used to make a blue dye and is eaten by birds. It is useful for hedging/screening and it has non-aggressive roots. The branches are used for poles for hut building. The wood is hard and is used to start fires. It is resistant to salt spray so is useful for coastal gardens. The medicinal properties are varied. The leaves are used to treat intestinal parasites, coughs, fevers, to aid sleep and prevent bad dreams, for rashes and toothache. When crushed, the leaves have insect-repellent qualities and are made into a lotion to prevent maggots and parasites on the wounds of animals or as a wash for tick infections. It is believed to protect against witchcraft and is considered anti viral. Pounded roots are bound over snake bites, especially Mamba bites. Its also useful on a game farm as it is browsed by game and is ideal for a small garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'kleros' meaning chance or fate and 'dendron' meaning tree. According to legend these trees possessed medicinal properties and one took a chance on them as it varied in several species.

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.

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.

Vachellia tortilis (Acacia tortilis)

(Umbrella Thorn)

It is a most classically shaped Acacia and is the well known emblem of one of our commercial banks and was the subject of many of Pierneef's paintings. The flat top droops slightly at the edge, producing an umbrella shape. It occurs naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Noah apparently used this wood to make The Arc. It has both hooked and straight thorns.The flowers open in summer and are white pompoms and sometimes so profuse that the tree appears blanketed in snow. Baboon and monkeys enjoy eating the flowers. It makes a striking specimen and is highly sought after for bonsai. It requires full sun and survives drought and frost. It grows well in any soil even in clay soil although it is an indicator in the wild of good soil and grasses for grazing. It stabilizes the soil. The bark is used to make fibre for ceremonial skirts and it is used to make a yellow dye. Elephant are fond of the bark and often tear off strips which result in the death of the tree. In the Kruger National Park sharp rocks are placed around the trees to protect them from the elephants as they don't like walking on sharp rocks. Attracts birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, springbok, bushbuck, impala, duiker and giraffe while the contorted pods are enjoyed by monkeys, baboons and parrots. The gum is edible and is enjoyed by Bushbabies. It is slow growing but the wood is used for fuel. It is planted to stabilize the soil as it has an extensive root system. It is the larval host plant for the Topaz Blue and the Brown Playboy. 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.

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