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Polygala virgata

(Purple Broom)

This erect, slender, eye catching, evergreen shrub grows to a height of 1,5 to 2,5 m. A single stem is formed at the base of the plant and slender hairless branches occur at the top. It is fast growing, hardy and can be grown in any garden in South Africa. Once established in the garden it will tolerate drought, wind and some frost. With its beautiful sprays of flowers it will be an accent plant in a shrubby garden or rockery. Planted in good enriched soil in a sunny or semi-shade position in the garden. The purple tuft of hairs is a distinctive characteristic to identify all Polygalas. Peak flowering time is from September to February. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and the seed is small, black and oval shaped.Simple leaves are alternately arranged on younger branches and usually drops before flowering. The leaves are narrow in shape, dark green with a velvety texture and 10 mm in length. It grows naturally on bushy hillsides and along stream banks. It grows in sandstone, clay or limestone slopes and along forest margins. The leaves and stems were traditionally prepared and used as blood purifiers. It is anti viral and is used to treat Herpes simplex. The plant is grazed when in reach of stock and game. The beautiful flowering sprays can be used in a vase. The shrub is a buzz with bees, insects and bumblebees which are attracted to the bright purple magenta flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Long-tailed Blue butterfly.

Psychotria capensis

(Black Birdberry)

This is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 3-8 m, with a slender stem, horizontal branches and pale brown bark. The leaves are shiny, light to dark green above and paler below which are smooth and leathery. They are fairly large, 70-150 x 15-60 mm and often drooping. This very decorative shrub is a must for all frost-free gardens. It is not suitable for a Highveld garden.Not only is it a year-round attraction, either in fruit or flower and it is also easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, it is perfect for those difficult, summer-shade winter-sun spots under large trees. Plant in groups or repeat plant throughout the bed. Given a thick layer of mulch it will grow in any soil and only requires additional watering in summer and in dry conditions. It is also successfully grown in containers on balconies and patios. Golden yellow flowers are borne in flattish, terminal branched heads up to 80 mm in diameter from spring to midsummer (August to January). They are visited by bees and butterflies. The flowers are followed in late summer to winter (January to July) by large, flat clusters of pea-sized, shiny yellow fruits ripening to red or black. Birds such as the bulbuls, starlings, robins, mousebirds, white-eyes and barbets find the berries irresistible. It is used medicinally as a root infusion is given for gastric complaints. The wood is hard and fine grained. The name is derived from the Greek psychotria = vilifying, referring to the healing properties of this plant.

Rhoicissus tridentata

(Bushman's Grape)

A strong, branched climber with decorative, serrated, grass green leaves can be trained into a large shrub. The yellow/green flowers open in summer and attract sunbirds. They are followed by fleshy, red back fruits which are loved by birds and people. These are used medicinally in childbirth, for fertility, colds, stomach, kidney and bladder aliments. It is made into jam, jelly and vinegar It is ideal for pergolas or as a groundcover for large shady areas, a worthy indoor foliage pot plant if kept in trim. Water it regularly. It attracts birds and butterflies and is browsed by game and black rhino. The tubers are eaten by bushpigs, porcupine and baboon although they are said to be poisonous. The name is derived fro the Greek rhoia, = pomegranate; kissos=ivy. Most plants in this genus climb and have tendrils, but the reference to pomegranate is obscure.

Salvia chamelaeagnea

(Blue Salvia)

This is an evergreen shrub that is easy to grow, flowering in a range of colours through summer. With its upright growth and fresh green foliage it also provides texture and contrast. For best results, these plants require full sun, well-drained, good garden soil and regular water, especially in winter. Flowering bright blue during the long hot summers, these plants grow easily even in the dry landscapes, riverbeds and in sandy soil among rocks. It also attracts birds and it is the larval host plant to the Mocker Blue, Sabi Smoky Blue, Graham's Blue. Ketsi Blue and Variable Blue butterflies. A tea is brewed from the leaves and this is used to treat colds, coughs, diarrhea, flatulence, heartburn and female ailments.

Stachys aethiopica

(Wild Sage)

This is an evergreen groundcover. It has opposite, ovate, toothed leaves with glandular hairs. Whorls of mauve, white or pink flowers are produced in August and September and some suggest all year round except in midwinter. The scent exuded by this plant is similar to cat urine. The plant straggles in Fynbos, grassland, scrub or forest to a height of 50 cm along the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa and into tropical Africa. It is used for the treatment of internal hemorrhoids, influenza, gynecological problems and liver disorders. It also attract birds, bees and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek for spike, originally an ear of wheat, and it refers to the flower spike.

Strelitzia reginae

(Crane Flower)

This evergreen shrub is water wise and is Kwazulu Natal's floral emblem. It will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. The striking orange and blue flowers open on and off all year. They attract birds - insect and nectar eaters as well as butterflies. It is a statement plant suitable for containers. It is ideal for small gardens and is long lasting in a vase. This plant is one of South Africa's most successful exports! It was sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in 1733 and was named by Sir Joseph Banks. It was named in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of George 111. George decided to send a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia. He sent 300 Strelitzia which weighed 3 tons by cargo ship, escorted by a frigate, to St Petersberg. They were then loaded into 15 coaches to be driven to their new home at Pavlovsk. When I lived in San Francisco I noticed that it was planted everywhere in parks, pavements and gardens. One would have thought that it was their national flower. This plant, like so many of our South African plants is used medicinally as decoctions from the flower is used as an enema for inflamed glands fro VD. Named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) who married King George 111 of England in 1761 after being selected unseen from a list of German princesses. The marriage was a great success and King George was devoted to her. She cared for him during his long slide into insanity though terrified by his occasional outbursts of violence. She was an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens. She died in 1818 and was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor.

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.

Thunbergia alata

(Black-Eyed Susan)

Cheerful, evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The orange flowers occur all year and they attract birds - insect eaters. It is useful for containers and is ideal for small gardens where is can be grown on a trellis to act as a screen. I’ve used it floating in a globlet as a table arrangement. This is the larval host plant for the Eyed Pansy butterfly. It is popular throughout the world. 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.

Watsonia pillansii

(Watsonia)

This is an evergreen Watsonia which flowers with Orange red flowers from late summer into autumn. They stand 50 cm tall and attract butterflies and birds. They prefer full sun and are water wise. They are very pretty if mass planted or even if one plants clumps of them in a sunny spot. Named for William Watson (1715-1787) and English physician, apothecary, botanist and naturalist and Neville Stuart Pillans ( 1808-1904)

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