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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.

Cotyledon orbiculata

(Pigs Ears)

Pig’s Ear. Named from the Greek 'kotyledon'=seed sheath and 'kotyl'= cup referring to the bowl or spoon shaped seed leaves. This fast growing succulent has thick leaves that are greyish green. The tall flower spikes produce bunches of pink tubular flowers in winter. These attract bees and nectar feeding birds like the sunbirds. The leaves are used medicinally for corns, boils and warts and the leaf juice is used to treat earache, toothache and epilepsy. Syphilis is treated with an enema made from the leaves. They are also dried and used as a protective charm for an orphan child. Carl Pappe, a physician came to the Cape in 1831 and he studied the medicinal benefits for epilepsy. He wrote Indigenous Plants Used as remedies by the Colonists of The Cape of Good Hope in 1847. These plants have escaped from gardens in Australia, New Zealand and California and become an invasive weed, probably because they require very little water. It is the larval host for two moth species as well as Pale Hairtail, Burnished Opal, Natal Opal, Common Black-eye, Henning's Black-eye and the Cape Black-eye.

Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. It is put into boats to protect them from crocodiles. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Helichrysum petiolare balls

(Imphepho)

A soft, vigorous shrub, which grows 0.5m - 1m x 1m. The dense, aromatic foliage smells of curry and consists of roundish leaves which are covered with silver-grey hairs. The grey leaves contrast beautifully in a garden as most other foliage is green. It also looks pretty planted next to Aristida junciformis grass. Tiny creamy-white flowers make up abundant flower heads on long stalks which add to the decorative effect of this plant in midsummer. It is magical as the leaves and stems are burnt as incense to invoke the goodwill of the ancestors. The smoke is inhaled to induce a trance. Ailments such as coughs, colds and infections are treated with this popular medicinal plant. The leaves are used by Rastafarians to make an infusion to treat asthma, chest problems, a protective cleanser and treat high blood pressure. A tea is made from the leaves to treat stress,heart problems, high blood pressure, a sedative and anxiety. The smoke of the burning leaves is inhaled as a pain reliever and used to fumigate sick rooms. The leaves are also widely used on wounds to prevent infection.The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding and campers still do the same today. It should be planted in full sun in a well drained soil. It should always be cut back because it grows very quickly. It an ideal plant for containers and has been used extensively abroad for decades. The dried flower are also exported. It attracts butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek (h)elios=sun : chryos =gold referring to the bright yellow flowers.

Hypoestes aristata

(Ribbon Bush)

An evergreen shrub which is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing. It will thrive in the sun, shade, or semi-shade. The white, pink or mauve flowers occur in autumn and attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It flowers profusely when nothing else is in flower and yet it is undemanding other than an annual pruning at the end of Winter. It is lovely for small gardens, especially if you get Hypoestes Little Pink. This fast-growing evergreen shrub grows to 1.5 m high. It produces soft, hairy leaves, and has attractive pink flowers borne in spike-like inflorescence. It requires very little attention. Ribbon bush is eaten as spinach in some areas, while traditionally the crushed leaves are used as a poultice for sore eyes. Roots are chewed for flu, coughs, colds, sore throats and breast diseases. The root bark is used to treat malaria. It also makes a good cut flower because it lasts well in water and it is an ideal plant for the containers. Bees, flies and other small insects visit the flowers in search of nectar or pollen, thus becoming a food source for insectivorous birds. This is one of the best nectar plants for the Swallowtail butterflies and it is the larval host to the Forest Beauty, Yellow, Brown and Blue Pansy butterflies and 1 moth specie. The name is derived from the Greek hypo= beneath and estia= house; referring to the way the bracts cover the calyx.

Lessertia frutescens was Sutherlandia frutescens

(Cancer Bush)

This is an evergreen shrub of 1,25m x 1m which is frost resistant and drought resistant. It is very fast growing and easy to grow. It will tolerate all soil types and requires very little water. The bright orange-red sweet pea shaped flowers open in spring to summer and it is one of the most multi purpose and useful of South African medicinal plants. The Khoi and the San people living in the Cape were the first to use this plant medicinally. It's common name indicates is use in cancer treatment. A tea is made from the flowers, pods and leaves for treating intestinal cancer. It is also made into a wash for sores, and drunk to reduce fevers, treat chicken pox and blisters. The botanist Thunberm wrote in 1772 that a decoction of the roots and leaves is used as an eye wash. It can also be taken for flu, liver problems, bladder ailments, rheumatism, diarrhoea, backache, as a daily tonic and stomach problems. The leaves, stems and fruit capsules can be boiled and the water added to the bath to bring down fevers and side effects of flu. It should not be used by pregnant women as it has been known to cause abortions. It also attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Brown Playboy and the Lucerne Blue butterflies. Can take frost and is grown outdoors in England. The leaves and seeds are smoked as a dagga substitute. Named for Jules Paul Benjamine Delessert ( 1773-1847 ) a French banker, industrialist, philanthropist and botanist. with a notable herbarium and botanical library and he was an entrepreneur. He was made a baron by Napoleon. The old name of Sutherlandia came from James Sutherland (1639-1719) a Scottish botanist and the first superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh. In 1683 he published a book which led to his doctorate and professorship. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby way'.

Orthosiphon labiatus now Ocimum labiatus

(Pink Sage)

The name has changed to Osimum labiatus. This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. It is a very popular garden plant as it is hardy to a moderate degree of frost and extreme drought, once established. It is prized for its showy display of pink - mauve flowers which open in summer and it makes a stunning show. They attract insect eating birds and butterflies. The aromatic leaves smell of mint when crushed. It is suitable for containers and is ideal for small gardens. If you have a large garden do mass planting for a stunning effect.

Plumbago auriculata

(Cape Leadwort)

An old faithful favourite amongst gardeners and landscapers. It is dependable, evergreen, drought hardy and fast growing. Plant it in the sun or semi shade and look out for the blue flowers in summer. These will attract butterflies and birds, which also use the bush as nesting sites. The flowers are edible and look pretty in a fruit salad or floating in a cooldrink. It responds well to pruning and if left to its own devices, it will scamper up to the tree tops. The roots and the leaves are used medicinally for headaches and the root bark is used as a bathing lotion to heal matrimonial discord. It is also magical and is said to heal fractures, and confuse enemies. Bundles of twigs are tied up into the roof rafters to ward off evil and prevent lightning. Root infusions dispel bad dreams and malaria and powdered root is put on warts and used as a snuff for headaches and fractures. A fire is made from the plant and the cattle and sheep are led through the smoke as this keeps them together and protects and defends them. This is the larval host plant to the Common Blue and the Short-toothed Blue butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin plumbum=lead; ago=resemblance, connection. The roots contain a fatty, lead coloured dye.

Strelitzia juncea

A very striking plant that makes a great feature plant. It has long cylindrical leaves that end in a sharp point and they grow to about 1 to 2 meters tall. Their flowers are the same as the Strelitzia reginea and they open in spring and summer. They are very slow growing and take about 10 years to flower. Plant in the sun to get better flowering. Their growth rate can be increased with fertilizing in spring and winter. They occur naturally in the Eastern Cape so they are drought resistant and will cope with light frost. The sunbirds and sugarbirds are attracted to the nectar and the seeds are eaten by birds, mice and squirrels. Their status is listed as vulnerable because of unscrupulous collectors, alien invader encroachment and quarries. They are long lasting in a vase. 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. Juncea means 'like a reed or a rush'.

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.

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