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Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe, Kransaalwyn)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

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.

Burchellia bubalina

(Wild Pomegranate)

This small sized, evergreen tree grows to 2,5m x 1,5m. It is a slow growing, attractive, ornamental shrub that tolerates partial shade but it needs protection from the very cold winter winds and extreme frost. The tubular orange flowers occur in Spring-Summer and they attract birds like the bulbuls, starlings, barbets and mousebirds as well as butterflies as they produce copious nectar and are edible. It is suitable for containers as it has non-aggressive roots. Traditionally the roots are added to body washes and used to prepare a love charm. Named for William John Burchell 1782-1863 an English explorer, naturalist, traveler, artist and author. He worked at Kew Gardens. In 1810 he traveled to Cape Town and collected 50 000 specimens which he took back to the UK. His name is also used in Burchell's zebra and Burchell's coucal.

Dracaena aletriformis

(Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, Grootblaardrakeboom)

This small evergreen tree will thrive in shade. It produces masses of orangy/yellow/white flowers in spring which are sweetly scented at night and attract nocturnal insects like the Hawk Moth which is the pollinator. They are followed by orange fruit which attract birds - insect eaters and fruit eaters like pigeons, louries and black-eyed bulbuls. It also attracts butterflies which feed on the leaves The Bush Nightfighter butterfly larvae wraps a part of the leaf over itself and comes out at night to feed on the leaves. Field mice and birds, like the Natal Robin nest in the leaves. It is a stunning, dramatic foliage plant which can be grown indoors if there is enough air flow or in a pot on a shady patio as it has non aggressive roots. It is frost tender so choose a protected spot close to the house where the building will provide protection. The name is derived from the Greek drakaina=a female dragon.

Ficus sur

(Broom Cluster Fig)

An evergreen tree with a smooth and almost white bark. The autumn leaves can be showy but the spring flush is often spectacular as the new leaves are a brilliant red, changing to bronze. They sprout from the trunk or main branches. The leaves are eaten by cattle, elephant, kudu, blue duiker and nyala. They are also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The fallen fruit is also enjoyed by bushpigs. It tolerates slight frost and it needs full sun and lots of water. The fruits are edible. It is an excellent shade tree and is a magnet for birds and bats when the fruits are ripe. Even the Puffback Shrike enjoys the fruit. At least 3 butterfly species eat the leaves including the Fig Tree Blue. This tree is pollinated by a wasp. It will also thrive in a boggy spot provided that some of the roots are not in waterlogged soil. The roots are aggressive so don't plant it in a small garden or near buildings. It is not frost resistant. It certainly is a useful tree as the fruits are made into jam, the wood is used for fire by friction, drum making and mortars for grinding flour. Inner bark is used for rope making. It is also medicinal as the milky latex is used to treat lung and throat problems while the roots are used to expel the placenta of cows. The bark is also said to increase milk production in lactation mothers. The latex is also used to treat painful eyes and cataracts. A root infusion is taken by both men and women for infertility and to prevent an abortion. The bark is used for skin rashes and constipation. It is fast growing and prefers to be planted in the shade. The name is derived from the Hebrew fag or the Persian fica referring to the edible figs.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . Powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to heal bleeding gums. The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

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