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Gardenia volkensii

(Transvaal Gardenia)

Plant this small evergreen tree, which is waterwise in the sun or semi-shade. It is lovely as a focal plant but be patient as it is slow growing. The stunning, fragrant, white trumpet shaped flowers occur in July to December and open at night so they are pollinated by long- tongued hawkmoths. They are white and fade to cream and finally yellow. It is the larval host plant for the graceful Apricot playboy butterfly whose larvae burrow into the hard fruit.The fruit is egg shaped and ribbed and a whitish colour. It is eaten by monkeys, baboons, elephant, giraffe, kudu and nyala. The leaves are browsed by giraffe, kudu, dassies, eland and impala. Elephants utilise all parts of the tree. It would be useful for informal hedging/screening, but is slow growing. The wood is hard and fine grained and used to carve ornaments. They have a very high spiritual vibration so they are used in love spells and to attract good spirits during rituals. Dried petals are used in incense and sprinkled on the floor to create peace. Fresh flowers are put in sick rooms.There are many medicinal uses like the treatment of intestinal worms, pneumonia, headaches, sore eyes, madness, to encourage infants to wean and walk and for earache. The fruit is used as an emetic by pulverising it and soaking it in water for an hour. This is then drunk to induce vomiting. The roots are a protective charm to prevent evil spirits and are burned as a protective charm against sorcery. The trees are planted on graves to protect the departed. In Zambia and Zimbabwe it is known as " the tree that keeps evil spirits away". The ripe fruit is pulped and soaked in water for 3 days to produce a black dye. They have a non-aggressive root system so they are suitable for small gardens and are a beautiful bonsai plant. Although they are drought hardy, they are frost tender when young so protect them during the winter months. Named for Dr Alexander Garden 1730-1791 who was a Scottish physician, botanist and zoologist and lived in South Carolina USA.

Harpephyllum caffrum

(Wild Plum)

This is a large, evergreen tree that grows to 15 m tall. The main stem is clean and straight, but the forest form often has supporting buttress roots. The bark is smooth when young, becoming rough, dark grey-brown with fissures as it grows older. The Zulu common name is 'crocodile skin' which refers to the bark. The branches are curved upwards, with leaves crowded towards the ends, forming a thick crown at the top of the tree. The whitish green flowers in summer are borne near the ends of the branches with male and female flowers on separate trees. The tasty, oval, plum-like fruits first appear green and then turn red when they ripen in autumn. They contain a single seed and are enjoyed by people, monkeys, bushbabies and birds, especially the Cape Parrot. The fruit makes a good wine and jelly. The bark is a popular traditional medicine. It is used to treat acne and eczema, and is usually applied in the form of facial saunas and skin washes. It is used by people with 'bad blood' that results in pimples on the face. Powdered burnt bark is used to treat sprains and bone fractures. Bark is also used for dyeing, and it has a mauve or pink colour. In some parts of the Eastern Cape, root decoctions are traditionally taken for paralysis thought to have been contracted from walking over an area that has been poisoned or polluted through sorcery. It is a good shade tree to have in a garden to attract birds and is the larval host to the Common Hairtail butterflies and 7 moth species. Be aware that it is frost tender on the Highveld. Fast growing from truncheons and popular bonsai subject. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek (h)arpago=sickle : phyllon = leaf as the leaflets are sickle shaped.

Heteropyxis natalensis

(Lavender Tree)

This small, evergreen tree is water wise and is happy in the sun or semi shade. In summer the white/creamy flowers attract bees, wasps, butterflies and insects which attract the insect eating birds. It is also a useful tree for nesting. This tree is suitable for containers and bonsai as it has non aggressive roots. Plant it 3 meters from a building or a pool. It is used medicinally as an antibacterial and the bark is considered to be an aphrodisiac.The leaves and roots of this plant are used medicinally to treat worms in stock and tick infestions, for toothache, mouth and gum infections. African healers prescribe inhaling the steam from a decoction of the roots to heal a bleeding nose and clear a blocked nose. The roots are also used in the treatment of mental disorders and fresh leaves are used during weaning, to make a herbal tea and for potpourri . A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat heartburn, colic, colds and flatulence. This tea is said to be strengthening and is given to the elderly, travellers and new mothers. The leaves are also used to scent tobacco as they smell like lavender as well as being browsed by antelope. Leaves and twigs are boiled in water to make a fragrant wash. Crushed leaves are added to mutton fat which then treats cracked heels and tired feet. The leaves are put into the bath for a fragrant and invigorating bath and are used in Potpourri. The bark and the leaves are eaten by black rhino. It is a very decorative tree for small gardens. With its glossy green leaves and a whitish stem, it makes a very good focal point. Plant this tree in a prominent spot where you can enjoy its lovely autumn foliage. The small fruit ripens in autumn and winter. The name is derived from the Greek heteros = different : pyxis = a jar with a lid , referring to the fruit capsule which looks like it has a lid on it.

Mimusops zeyheri

(Transvaal Red Milkwood)

It is potentially a large, evergreen tree with a rounded crown which may reach up to 15 m under ideal, warm, frost free, moist conditions. It can also be a shrub or small tree in its natural range and only reaches its full potential in protected valleys and forest margins where moisture is more available. Small, white, sweetly scented flowers are borne in October to February. Fruits are oval with a pointed tip ripening yellow or orange from April to September. It looks good when planted near pools where there is full sun. An ideal plant for containers and bonsai because it has non aggressive roots. It attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Boisduval's False Acraea and the Chief False Acraea butterflies. The timber is used for furniture.

Mundulea sericea

(Cork Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, happy in the sun and produces mauve/purple flowers in summer. It occurs in northern Namibia, , Botswana, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. It attracts birds - insect eaters, nectar eaters and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland and impala. It has several uses as the twigs are used as toothbrushes, the bark is used as an insecticide and fish poison and the leaves are used to bleach hair. It is also used medicinally as the bark is used as an emetic to treat poisoning and the roots are used for fertility. It is an ideal tree for small gardens, particularly as the beautiful bark has a cork-like appearance, hence the common name. It will do well in pots if they are well drained and is lovely as a bonsai. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 2 meters from a building or a pool. This is the larval host plant for 2 moth species as well as the Natal Bar, Common Blue and the Dusky Blue butterflies.

Ochna serrulata

(Mickey Mouse Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and thrives in sun or semi-shade. The young spring foliage is a beautiful pinkish-bronze, maturing to glossy green. This beautiful shrub is covered with fragrant, beautiful yellow flowers that fade to red and are followed by black seeds which look like Mickey Mouse’s face. They attract fruit eating birds. It has spread all over the world and is invasive in Hawaii and Australia. It is frost hardy but slow growing. It’s useful for informal hedging/screening as well as bonsai specimens. It is medicinal as it is used to treat infections and magical as is used as an antidote to evil spirits. It has been grown in England since 1820. It is the larval host plant of the Karkloof Emperor and the Marieps Emperor butterflies. the name is derived from the Greek Ochne = wild pear; referring to the leaves that resemble those of the pear tree.

Olea europaea subsp. africana

(Wild Olive)

One of the oldest cultivated trees and is the symbol of peace as when Noah sent a dove from his Ark, it returned with an Olive leaf. In ancient Rome an olive branch was held to plead for peace and in ancient Greece, Irene, the Goddess of peace loved olives. The tree represents abundance and drives away evil spirits. This medium sized, evergreen tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is neatly shaped and has a dense spreading crown. The white/green flowers open in summer and they attract bees and butterflies. The flowers are replaced with edible, purple berries which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like starlings, pigeons, parrots and louries. They are also enjoyed by people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, and warthogs. The fruit is also used to produce black dye. It's useful for nesting sites. The leaves are browsed by game and stock and is a fodder tree for mammals. It is useful as a formal, pruned hedge or an informal hedge/screen. Very popular as a bonsai subject. They sometimes have aggressive roots so plant 4 meters from a building or a pool. It is protected in the North West Province, the Cape and the Free State. There are numerous medicinal uses for eye lotions, tonics for high blood pressure, kidney ailments, anointing oil and sore throats. Wild Olive tonic is available commercially and is used to treat headaches, colds and to build the immune system. It is believed that inhaling the smoke from a Wild Olive fire will cure a hangover. Magical uses are to protect against lightening, by putting a branch in an open doorway. Leaves are scattered to make a peaceful place and they bring luck. The beautiful golden brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments and fencing posts. As the wood is strong and durable, it is used for walking sticks, knobkieries and spear handles. It grows along rivers and is useful to stabilize the soil. A must for a bird garden! This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek elaia and the latin olea = classical latin name for the olive.

Peltophorum africanum

(Weeping Wattle)

This specie occurs in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Natal and Swaziland. An attractive, low branching, wide spreading shade tree with a fairly dense crown of olive-green feathery foliage. This deciduous tree grows to 9m x11m and is drought resistant. It requires full sun and moderate watering. It is a half hardy plant which must be protected from frost when it is young. Its has non aggressive roots so plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Grows fairy fast in fertile soil. The terminal sprays of bright yellow crinkly pea shaped flowers appear in summer and are visited by bees . The wood is used for fuel and for furniture. It attracts birds and butterflies. The spittle bug exudes a liquid and that gives rise to the common name of Weeping Wattle. The leaves and pods are browsed by game, elephant, kudu, giraffe and the bark is eaten by black rhino. The bark is also used medicinally for coughs, sore throats, fever and intestinal parasites, eye complaints and VD. A root decoction is used for infertility, backache and a purification rite for widows. The leaves are also used medicinally for toothache and in a wash to expel evil. It is the larval host plant for 6 moth species and the Common Scarlet, Satyr Emperor and the Van Son's Emperor butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek pelte = small shield ; phorum = carrier; referring to the shape of the stigma.

Podocarpus falcatus now Afrocarpus falcatus

(Outeniqua or Common Yellowwood, Kalander)

An attractive evergreen tree that grows to 15m x 12m. It is a protected tree in South Africa. It is frost hardy, wind resistant and requires water as it naturally occurs on misty mountain slopes with high humidity. In 1976 it was listed as SA National Tree and one needs a permit to fell these trees. It is often used as a Christmas tree. Although it has the smallest leaves of all the Podocarpus species, it grows to be the tallest. This is the famous 'Big Tree' of the Knysna Forest. It is slow growing at first but once established grows fast. It looks impressive lining a driveway as an avenue and it can be used as a windbreak or screen on a farm or as a container plant on a patio. The fruit are eaten by bats, birds, monkeys and bush pigs. The bark is burnt in a kraal to prevent the cattle from straying. It is an important nesting and food for the endangered Cape Parrot, and is visited by Louries and Pigeons. The fine grained wood is used for ceilings, floors, doors, boats and furniture. The ripe fruit is edible and the sap is used medicinally for chest complaints. Plant it about 5 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Podocarpus henkelii

(Henkels Yellowwood, Henkel - se - geelhout)

This handsome, medium sized tree is moderately frost hardy. It is a protected tree in South Africa. This is a highland forest species that grows best on moist sites with high rainfall and deep soils. It is a very neat, decorative tree suitable for both home gardens and large landscapes. It makes and excellent specimen tree for lawns and is a good choice for an avenue. It is also suited for formal gardens, as it responds well to pruning. It has male and female reproductive organs on separate plants. Male Podocarpus henkelii cones are erect, pink, and 2-3 cm long and are solitary or in clusters of up to 5. Female cones are solitary, but the stalk is short. The seed is large and roundish and 1,5-2 cm in diameter and olive green to yellowish green when ripe. Louries, pigeons and parrots eat the fruit. It attracts butterflies. It is a magical tree as the bark is chewed and spat out into the wind while the loved one's name is repeated. The roots are not aggressive so it makes a good bonsai. Plant it about 5 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Podocarpus latifolius

(Real Yellowwood, Opregte Geelhout)

This is a slow-growing, large, evergreen tree, which grows to between 20 and 30 m tall. It occurs naturally on misty mountain slopes with a high rainfall so it needs lots of water. It is a protected tree in South Africa. It is very long-lived and is able to withstand some frost. The unusual textural appearance of the leaves makes it a good contrast or background for other trees. The colourful receptacles of the female tree are most attractive. This tree would make an interesting container plant and can withstand short periods indoors. The leaf size and interesting bark are good characteristics for bonsai. It produces greenish flowers in spring and the wood is used for furniture. When the berry-like receptacles ripen, birds such as pigeons and turacos feed on them. They are also eaten by monkeys, bushpigs and sometimes by people. The bark is used in traditional medicine. Plant it about 4 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Portulacaria afra

(Elephant's Foot, Spekboom)

Nature's wonder plant that purifies the air. A friend of mine has one growing in a pot in every room in her home. The porkbush is an attractive, evergreen succulent shrub or small tree that can reach 2 - 5 m in height, although usually around 1.5 - 2 m in a garden situation. It is protected. It has small round succulent leaves and red stems. Small star-shaped light pink to deep red flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring although flowering in cultivation is often erratic. They are a rich source of nectar for many insects, which in-turn attracts insectivorous birds and is used as nesting sites. Bees use the nectar to make honey. It also attracts butterflies. The fruit are like inflated paper lanterns and are mauve or rose coloured. They thrive in warm situations on rocky slopes, in bushveld and dry river valleys. This bushy tree makes a lovely screen or hedge. The leaves of the porkbush can be eaten and have a sour or tart flavour. It is heavily browsed by game and domestic stock and highly favoured by tortoises. The porkbush is useful for preventing soil erosion. Traditional uses also include the increasing of breast milk for lactating mothers. The leaves are used to quench thirst, and sucking a leaf is used to treat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke. There are many medicinal uses as crushed leaves can be rubbed on blisters and corns on the feet to provide relief. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for a sore throat and mouth infections while the astringent juice is used for soothing skin conditions such as pimples, rashes and insect stings. The juice is also used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for sunburn. The leaves are excellent fodder for most domestic animals and game such as grey duiker, klipspringer, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu and elephant. A sprig is placed on top of Tomato Bredie as it is cooking and this imparts an elusive and tangy taste.

Portulacaria afra prostrata

(Elephants Foot)

Dwarf Elephants Foot is another very versatile plant that grows in full sun to deep shade. It produces lavender coloured flowers in summer. It is water wise and has arching, trailing branches with reddish brown stems. It would be ideal in a pot, to scamper over the edge, a hanging basket or even retaining walls. I saw it flourishing in the baking hot sun in the Kruger Park, in a retailing wall at one of the rest camps in very harsh conditions.

Rhamnus prinoides

(Dogwood)

Grows in most parts of the country to 4-6meters. It makes a rounded, evergreen screen which is attractive with its glossy green leaves which are browsed by game. The leaves are used in beer and wine making. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish, blooming between November and January, in small clusters. They are loved by the bees, the Forest-king butterfly and other insects which attract the insect eating birds. The fruits are about the size of a pea (about 5 mm in diameter), roundish and clearly divided into three compartments. They appear between December and June. They are fleshy and green, turning red and then purple as they ripen. The fruit is loved by many bird species like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins, so it's a great addition to a bird garden. The wood is white to yellow, often streaked with brown, pink, red or green and is hard and heavy. It is too small to be generally useful, although walkingsticks may be made of it. It is tough and frost resistant and grows well in moist soils. It is evergreen and is good for small gardens and hedges, especially in cold areas. It is widely used as a protective charm to ward off lightning and evil influences from homes and crops and to bring luck in hunting. It is also used medicinally to cleanse the blood, to treat pneumonia, rheumatism, sprains, skin complaints, respiratory infections, stomach ache, and as a gargle. It has non aggressive roots and will grow well in containers. Plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Celtic ram, and later the Greek rhamnos= tuft of branches.

Schotia brachypetala

(Weeping Boerbean)

This large, handsome, evergreen tree is drought resistant and relatively frost resistant in warm areas. It is found in riverine forests so is adaptable as it grows in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It occurs naturally in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal and Natal. The stunning rich, deep red flowers open in spring and summer and they attract birds, the insect, fruit and nectar eaters. They are also eaten by louries, parrots, baboons and monkeys. It flowers best after a long dry winter so don't be tempted to water it in the winter. The leaves are browsed by baboon, giraffe, impala, nyala and black rhino. It is also used for nesting sites and attracts Foxy and Giant charaxes butterflies. The bark is traditionally used to make sangoma's red dye and the seeds are roasted and eaten. The seeds were eaten by the early Boers. It’s a magical tree and is used to ward off evil. There are many medicinal uses as a decoction is drunk after excessive beer drinking and for heartburn, nausea and diarrhoea. The smoke from the leaves is inhaled for nose bleeds. Powdered leaves are put on ulcers to speed up healing. The bark contains tannin and is used for tanning leather. The wood is hard and is used for furniture, flooring and fuel. It’s a show stopper when in flower but do remember that it drops nectar on parked cars, hence the common name! The roots are not aggressive so plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The Tsonga common name of "Mvhovhovhoz" imitates the sound of the swarming insects at flowering. Named for Richard van der Schot ( 1730-1790) a Dutch gardener who studied at Leiden and became head gardener at the imperial Gardens at Schonbrunn. He was then asked to take a 4 year journery to Grenada, Saint Vincent, Aruba, Cuba and Curacao to collect tropical plants and 'curiosities' for the palaces natural history collection.

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