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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 ecklonii

(Blue Stars)

This evergreen groundcover, is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It has blue flowers in summer that attract birds and butterflies. It is ideal for wetlands and moist places in the garden. Show them off by mass planting for a dramatic effect. It is also medicinal as the leaves are used as an enema for fever, coughing and internal sores. It is also magical being used as a protective charm. Ideal for small gardens or for pots on a patio. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

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.

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.

Crinum bulbispermum

(Orange River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The stunning pink flowers are sweetly scented and are a show stopper in spring. They attract much admiration, as well as butterflies. This is a Highveld wetland plant so it would do well in a damp spot. It is the provincial flower of the Free State. It is magical as it is planted to protect the home from evil. It is used medicinally to ensure an easy delivery and to stimulate breast milk. It is also used to treat colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, reduce swelling, blood cleansing, kidney and bladder problems, sores, boils, acne and as a poultice for septic sores. Juice from the leaf is used for earache and a roasted slice of the bulb is placed over the ear to ease the pain. A brew of the leaves in water is used for malaria, rheumatic fever and kidney problems. It produces masses of seed and propagates easily from seed. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crinum macowanii

(River Lily)

The large, beautifully scented bell shaped pale pink to dark pink flowers, sometimes darkly streaked are displayed at the top of a long stalk (about 1-1,2m) above a clump of strap–shaped green leaves are seen in a spring to summer. As the plant is dormant in winter, it needs to be kept dry in winter.It is similar to Crinum bulbispermum but it has black anthers. It’s an ideal, frost hardy plant for wetland gardens and requires full sun. The bulb is used traditionally for kidney and bladder diseases, itchy rashes, tuberculosis and rheumatic fever. The leaves are used as bandages for swellings. Like the Crinum bulbispermum, it is also a protective charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily. This specie is named for Dr Peter MacOwan (1830-1901) an academic, plant collector and professor who moved to South Africa for health reasons. He was, in 1869 the director of the Cape Town Botanical Gardens and curator of the Cape Government Herbarium. He was one of the first Professors of Botany at UCT..After his retirement he worked at the Albany Museum where many of his specimens were preserved.

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.

Cyperus textilis

(Emezi Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 1.5m high and 1m wide. It is an attractive accent plant for a dam or pond. It forms a clump of bare stems, each topped by a rounded head of narrow spiky leaves. The stems are used to make traditional sleeping mats, baskets and twine. It is frost resistant with brownish flowers in summer. Plant it in the sun or semi-shade in a wetland or next to a water feature where it will get sufficient water. It attracts birds which use it for nesting. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Dierama medium

(Medium Harebell)

This deciduous bulb grows to 50cm x 50cm 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 so it is suitable for a bog garden or near a water feature. Burning in winter promotes flowering. If you have clay soil then dig in lots of organic compost as they are heavy feeders. The name is derived from the Greek 'diorama'=a funnel which refers to the shape of the flower.

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.

Dietes grandiflora

(Large Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in summer, and they attract birds - insect eaters and butterflies. It is suitable for wetlands and can even be planted in the water. It is clump-forming and is ideal for small gardens. It is believed that when in flower, rain will follow. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Digitaria eriantha

(Common Finger Grass)

It is a deciduous grass grows to about 1.8m. It grows relatively well in various soils, but grows especially well in moist soils. It is tolerant to droughts, water lodging, suppresses weeds and grows relatively quickly post grazing. This grass demonstrates great potential for farmers in Africa in subtropical and tropical climates, mostly for livestock feed. It produces brownish flowers in summer and it good in controlling soil erosion. It attract birds. The name is derived from the Latin digitum = finger and aira referring to the shape of the flower.

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.

Hypericum revolutum

(Curry Bush)

This multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is fast-growing, evergreen and grows to 3 m high and spreads about the same width. The stems have reddish brown, scaly bark and drooping branches. The evergreen plant's leaves release a curry-like smell when crushed and after rain. The fresh, green foliage and bright yellow flowers are reasons to have this delightful plant in your garden. Flowers are single and bright yellow, up to 50 mm in diameter. Flowering time is in summer and autumn. The fruit are reddish brown capsules enclosing the seeds. The wood of this plant is used as timber and for building material in some African countries. Medicinally, it is used to treat stomach ache and the leaves are cooked and strained to heal sores and VD, backache from kidney infections. It is said to be ‘nature's firebreak’, as it does not burn well and therefore protects forests. It can be planted in the full sun to semi shade, in well-drained soil and needs to be watered regularly. It would do well along a stream or near a water feature. A regular light pruning will to keep it neat. It can be used in containers, for mass planting as an informal hedge and as a pioneer plant. It deserves a place in any fragrant garden and it attract birds and bees. The name is derived from the Greek hyper=above, eikon= a figure, icon, image. From the ancient practice of placing flowers above an image to ward off evil spirits.

Ilex mitis

(Cape Holly)

This is a medium sized evergreen tree with a straight trunk, attractive bark and a rounded canopy which is fast growing in the sun and frost hardy. Do protect young trees for the first few years. The twigs and leaf stalks are reddish in colour. Sweetly scented, white flowers occur in spring or early summer. They are followed by fruit which ripen on the female trees in autumn, turning bright red, are densely packed along the stems. They provide bright splashes of colour, attracting many kinds of birds, like louries, doves, pigeons, bulbuls, starlings and barbets. It is a useful tree which attracts butterflies and can be used near wetlands. It is also medicinal as the bark is chewed as a purgative. Elephants eat the leaves. The leaves create a lather when rubbed together. The wood was used to make wagons, furniture, fuel and the heels of ladies high heeled shoes. Roots are non aggressive so plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool.

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